Opinion: Comprehensive plan update needs more time, care

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

Nearly a generation has passed since the Linn County Commission and Planning and Zoning Board put the stamp of approval on the last comprehensive plan in 2006.


That plan mapped out development for two decades, until 2026. It was developed as a guide for growth in housing development, heavy industry, tourism and agriculture.


The planning took several months and after inviting the public to three town-hall meetings in Pleasanton, La Cygne and Mound City. Meant to get input on how the county should grow from a diverse group of county residents, the meetings instead tended to attract the same core group of people that would travel to each meeting site to give essentially the same input.


Ultimately, the planning board and the commissioners tweaked it to arrive at the plan now on the books. And that plan, with some flexibility to account for changing circumstances, became a key reference for the county’s planning and zoning department.


But that plan is about to change.


Jessica Hightower, Linn County Economic Development Director, announced on Monday, June 7, that her department had posted an online survey for county residents, business owners, landowners and other stakeholders to share their thoughts about how the county should look in the future.


The effort to update planning is called “Moving Linn County Forward 2042.”


The survey was online for 10 days, but the effective promotion span was eight days and completing it was likely not a must-do for even those inclined to take it. Many Linn County residents did not even know the survey existed.


Keep in mind that this planning process started months ago. However, the firm hired to coordinate the plan had numerous staff changes and missteps in getting it off the ground. So rushing the survey responses in order to meet a deadline seems more than counterintuitive.


The overarching concern here, since zoning administrator Andy Mayhugh left that position as of June 11, is the task of developing the new comprehensive plan may have been shifted to a department that doesn’t deal specifically with the impact of planning. And that is important, because the comprehensive plan is the template for county growth from a zoning perspective.


So the process of updating the plan should be taken with care and deliberation, because it is a document that will guide growth in the coming 20 years.


Finally, plans are in place to hold July meetings in Mound City, La Cygne, and Pleasanton to get community input. One of the questions on the survey was what the respondent considered the core of the county.


Those who are familiar with Linn County realize that there is no central core. While there are several people who connect with those cities from other areas of the county, there are those who do not.


If organizers want to get the most complete response and make the effort for all residents to buy into the revised plan, they should put meetings at Blue Mound and Parker on the schedule.


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