Planning: “Yeah, We Could Do That.”

Looking everywhere except directly in front of me.

After writing about shoving information under our noses to get us to notice, boy did I waste some time. A bunch of research into elements of good planning, master planning, comprehensive planning; examples and studies of all of the above, all triggered by some thinking out loud a couple days ago.

It’s all triggered by the budget crunch.  We had a contract ready to go for $177,000 for an outside consulting agency Houseal & Lavigne, and that got spiked to save some $$.  Then the rezoning issues start popping up, reinforcing Tully’s initial lone calling for a new Comp Plan that eventually morphed into TCD3 and the H&L contract.  More council members climbed on board yet again this week, calling for the Comp Plan to be reinserted into the budget, but no one had any ideas how to link it to a revenue source; in short, council wants the plan but doesn’t know how to pay for it.

Community Branding, the TCD3, and the Comp Plan were all sidelined for lack of money.  But the Comp Plan is needed and the TCD3 was supposed to come first.  So what do we do?

Here’s the original plan.  As soon as I saw CPAC I quit reading; I thought I knew enough.  Why?  That thinking out loud led me to think DG could probably pull off both TCD3 and a new Comp Plan, and put a permanent updating mechanism in place for the Comp Plan so it wouldn’t get so outdated again.  We could do it in house and save some money.  It rested on a Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee that I learned about reading up on master planning.  It’s a must have for any community looking to effectively manage change and growth.  It provides the needed bridge between a Plan Commission that looks at individual projects and judges them based on their merits, and a council that sets policy.

I asked some local business people, could you guys do branding?  Can you help gather info from the business community and bring that input to the TCD3 effort, be the whip hand at that end?  They seemed almost eager to be part of that kind of grass roots effort.  Can you do it cheaper-a lot cheaper- than outside consultants?  We have staff with experience doing work on Comprehensive Plans, more than one has the capabilities.  It’s not some mysterious dark art, it’s mostly grind it out information gathering, assembly, and processing so it makes sense.

Research, define, develop, refine, adopt. Repeat whatever steps need repeating.  Skip the extra hundreds of dollars per hour paid to outsiders, money that leaves town and never comes back.  Instead, let’s keep the $$ in house, keep it in the village.  You actually leverage any money spent locally; it gets used locally about three times, so it’s a good local investment.

But the more research I did, the more it looked like the consultants found the same sources I did, and used them in much a similar fashion as I have posited.  Get input from the community.  Make that input as diverse as possible.  Get more input.  And more.  Ask questions.  Listen.  Let the community (or make the community if that’s what it comes to) say what they want.  Put together some initial ideas, run it past the CPAC.  Have them hold the public meetings to vet and provide a feedback loop.  Produce, analyze, modify, repeat until you have a good set of tangible action items.  Then let the pros do the gruntwork of producing the document, and go through that analyze, modify, loop again just to make sure we have it right.

We can still do that.  The Strategic Plan incorporates a Vision Statement that can serve as a template to jump start the process.  The input stage is the TCD3, and the end output is the Comprehensive Plan.  The key is that the CPAC doesn’t disband when the CP is done; they start the next cycle, start getting ready to do it all over again. being able to amend the CompPlan on a regular basis would extend the useful life, the rational basis, and the relevancy and weight of the plan.  That forces a regular cycle of Comp Plan updates, yet leaves the process open for major updates on a regular cycle.

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