On January 31, 2005, a rare joint meeting with the Troy Planning Commission and the Troy City Council took place. The topic of discussion was the final approval of the City’s newest comprehensive plan. After months of hard work, including a few visioning sessions with the public, the city had a new document to help guide their decision making. According to the executive summary of the plan, the document had an expected shelf life of twenty years and was expected to be updated every five years. True to form, the 2005 plan had been updated in 2010, 2016 and 2019.
Other than an annual budget, there is probably no more important policy statement that is made by a community than its comprehensive plan. The plan becomes the legal foundation for the rezoning and dividing of parcels in our community. When new land is annexed into the community, the comprehensive plan is referenced by staff, the planning commission and the city council on what the proper use of the land should be for the entire benefit of the community. Should the land be used for industrial purposes? New residential housing? What will the density of the new development be? All of these answers are guided by the community’s comprehensive plan.
Ideally, comprehensive plans aren’t just documents that are created by career bureaucrats and consultants, though they are often sought out and help lend valuable expertise. The true strength of the plan comes through the public participation that is made during the development of the plan. Good planning consultants work with communities and their citizens to find out what are the strong areas a community has and what are the weak aspects that need attention. Good consultants ask thoughtful and probing questions. And while some answers come from city hall bureaucrats, the best source of these answers come from you, citizens of our community. The comprehensive plan will lay out the vision of our collective hopes, dreams and desires for our community now and into the future and nobody knows those things better than you, our residents.
And while the document is used mostly for planning and development issues, it is by no means strictly their only use, a good comprehensive plan can be used by city and county engineering departments to help determine where road construction and public utility projects take place. They can be used by police, fire and service departments to help determine when and where future facilities might need to be built to serve a dynamic community.
Other organizations can also use the plan for their benefit. Local school districts can use the document to help determine building needs and bus routes. The local Chamber of Commerce could use the data to help small businesses better understand the community’s demographics and the local economic market. Nonprofit agencies can use the plan to help determine future needs of the community and create new ways to serve our neighbors. In reality, the opportunities to use the plan are almost limitless.
In my career in local government, I am proud to have been part of excellent planning processes that have helped provide real tangible benefits to the communities I served. In Bethel Township, we created a plan that not only stopped aggressive annexations for a long period of time, we also created programs that balanced preserving productive agricultural land while developing new public water infrastructure for communities that had a desperate need for it. In Piqua, the planning efforts I was a part of helped create grassroot neighborhood associations and became a catalyst for the demolition of the old Piqua Memorial Medical Center and the building of Washington Intermediate School on that site.
By 2025, our community is going to need a new comprehensive plan and our community is going to need the leadership to ensure that we bring the public along as the plan is being created. Our community is going to need a Mayor that has a strong record of working with the public, in both governmental and non-governmental roles. Our city is going to need a Mayor with the background of being a part of developing and implementing these plans. Our city is going to need a Mayor that makes looking to our collective future a top priority.
We can do better!