After a short break, this is the promised follow-up to my August 17 post, that talked about my Town’s Comprehensive Plan update process and my initial thoughts about the draft plan, after the two required public hearings.
The Town Council (TC) held their virtural public hearing on September 12. Building on my observations from the August 17 post, I submitted a six page comment letter. Addtional information included page referenced comments of specific goals and implenentation actions. Noteworthy recommendations included the following:
- A town dashboard to measure progress, increase transparency and public engagement (Pensacola Metro Dashboard – ” Like the dashboard of a car tells you where you’re going, and how the important functions of your vehicle are working, so too we thought the Pensacola Metro Dashboard would be a way to get a snapshot of how the community is progressing.“
- A Comp Plan Implementation Dashboard to link town decisions to comp plan goals and actions.
- Include maintenance costs for all the infrastructure the town will own from annexations should be included in fiscal impact analysis. See the following reference: Why Does Infrastructure Cost So Much.
- There is a need for go further to really address both housing diversity and affordability. See the following references: Arlington, Virginia Missing Middle Housing Study, Missing Middle Housing: Thinking Big and Building Small to Respond to Today’s Housing Crisis.
- It is critical that the town grows in a planned and fiscally sustainable way. In general, residential development does not necessarily pay for the services generated. This doesn’t mean ban new houses, but rather a better process to measure fiscal impact. See the following reference – https://fiscal.verdunity.com/
My letter was the only one submitted and I provided the only “public” testimiony at the virtural hearing. This was disappointing, but not unexpected given the pandemic and minimal outreach efforts by the town.
TheTC intially did not want to keep the public record open to allow addtional written commets, but finally agreed at the last monent because the final future land use map had not been included in the draft plan . The record was then held open until Friday, September 18.
One would assume that the Plan under condideration for approval would be complete and therefore could be approved. That apprently was not the case . The final future land use map was only a draft and not the final map prepared by the consultant. Staff indicated they would contact the consultant and find out when the final land use map woud be produced, hopefuly wthin the next several days.
First, a DISCLAIMER – I am not an attorney. However, I am baffled how an incomplete plan (openly admitted ) can be approved?! To me, this is a recipe for a sharp attorney to file a lawsuit or other legal actions stopping the approval process. Call me an alaramist, but I have seen and experienced this from my previous work in other Maryland counties and communities. In my mind, this is NOT the right process for review and approval of a Comp Plan, the devlopment guide for the next ten years!
The TC held a work session on Monday, September 21 to consider formal adoption of the Comp Plan. The Planning Commission was also invited to participate.
No other comments had been submitted during the 5 days the public record was open.
The TC, the Planning Commission and staff reviewed my comment letter and rightfully concluded that they were primarly about plan implementation. They are right and that was my intent. However, my other intent was and will be to use the letter as a guide to remind them there is no real plan without implementation. There can be adjustments, as conditions change, but that at least suggests they are focused on implelemetation.
At the end of the work session, there was consensus to move forward to formal approval of the proposed Comp Plan at the TC’s official buisness meeting, Monday, September 28.
Staff said the consutlant had not yet completed and subimtted the “final future land use map” for the Comp Plan. This could then be added later, as “an amendment to the plan”. I guess that works (again, I’m not an attorney), but but my training and experience suggest this still not the right process. There was perhaps pressure from the State Planning Department to finish and adopt the Comp Plan to meet their ten year update requirement.
A plan and then implementation is a critical need for our town, as yet another annexation proposal (senior housing,medical offices) is ready for submission. So now there are three residential annexations and the start up of a previously approved (1992) residential residential annexation.
So we need an executable plan, with transparency and public engagement!
More to follow as this unfolds!