By Travis Gulbrandson
The City of Vermillion’s Comprehensive Plan may incorporate the Chamber-proposed community-wide strategic plan.
During a meeting held last Monday afternoon, Assistant City Manager Andy Colvin said the two plans would be independent of each other, but would also use many of the same basic elements.
“The comp plan would most likely incorporate the values of the strategic plan, but it would be a city document,” Colvin said. “It would be a document that the planning commission and the city council would adopt as an official city document, and the city would have the final say on what is in that document.
“The strategic plan might help provide some of the larger, big-picture goals, and the comp plan would just be telling the city, ‘How are we going to make some of these things happen?’” he said.
The development of both plans would involve the coming together of elements of the city government, the business community and the public.
If the community-wide strategic plan is completed first, a lot of the background work required for the comprehensive plan would already be done, Colvin said.
“It would help that process along and get rid of a lot of that legwork,” he said. “Normally you would have to invite people and get input, whereas that would already have been done with the strategic plan process.”
Several members of the council spoke in favor of developing each plan with an eye toward the other.
“I see both of these (dovetailing) together,” said Howard Willson. “A comprehensive plan without knowing what our strategic plan is going to be, is going to be useless, because we don’t have a meshing together.”
Kelsey Collier-Wise agreed, saying, “The description of these two processes is so similar, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of the same groups. … If we’re going to be bringing these people together we can really get all of this done.”
Steve Howe, director of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce (VCDC), said he would like to see both groups work together, with an outside party to facilitate discussions.
“It’ll help improve accountability and increase participation,” Howe said. “If the city is driving it or the VCDC is driving it, it’s going to become ‘their’ plan, and it’s got to be a broad plan, in my opinion.”
“I would say that whatever constituencies are involved, that they have to have skin in the game,” said Mayor Jack Powell. “It can’t just be a city budget or a VCDC budget. I think all the members need to have some investment in it.”
Colvin said the city’s comprehensive plan is in need of an update. The last time one was done was in 1999-2000.
The planning commission started the update process in 2010, but it was put on hold for the development of the Joint Jurisdictional Zoning Ordinance.
After the ordinance was completed in 2012, the planning commission met again.
“As we’re going through it, it appears to be more of a revision, which basically is a good thing,” Colvin said. “A lot of the goals and objectives that were outlined in the comp plan had been completed – most if not all of them. …
“We’re kind of at a ground zero point to start again and ask, ‘Where are we going to go with this?’” he said.
In the past, the South Eastern Council of Governments (SECOG) has been used to help develop the plan, and Colvin said they’ll still have a “big presence.”
“Looking at what other communities do … a lot of them have turned to community plans,” Colvin said. “They’re much larger documents, they’re much thicker documents, they have a lot more data. You’re looking at economics in there, you’re looking at education, whatever focus areas that we as a city would want them to focus on.”
If the plan’s objectives are identified ahead of time, the outcomes are, as well, he said.
“What most cities are doing now is wanting a document for policy-making so the city council and planning commission can look at (it) and say, ‘This was in the comprehensive plan. This is why we’re going it, and this is why it makes sense,’” Colvin said.
The goal of the comprehensive plan is to begin with “big-picture thinking,” he said.
“But at the end of that, you do focus down … to capital improvements,” Colvin said. “It does go down to where that water main is going to go, or where that infrastructure upgrade is going to go. That’s ultimately where the more specific job come from – your overall goal.
“A good comp plan is going to have that in there like a map for everybody to look at and say, ‘What’s important? What’s our goal right now?’” he said.
No action was taken regarding the comprehensive plan.