Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2007

Committee plans future growth of county

July 5, 2007

A new committee that has its sights on the future development of Leavenworth County is well underway.

The 14-member Comprehensive Planning Committee, a supplemental committee to the Leavenworth County Planning Commission, has been conducting meetings over the last two months and is scheduled to draft a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan by summer 2008.

The most recent comprehensive plan was drawn up in 2001.

In developing the long-term plan for the face of the county, the committee must determine how to facilitate future businesses and homes that come to the area and where they might go.

"We all have very different agendas," said Committee Chair Sabrina Darley about the group's members that range from agriculturists, a teacher, a bank president and a real estate broker. "Our main goal is to assure that Leavenworth County develops as conservatively but as aggressively as possible."

"(The comprehensive plan) is an attempt to find a consensus of how people want the community to grow and to put in at the local government level that consensus," Planning and Zoning Director Chris Dunn said. "Ultimately the market will determine where growth will occur, but also the market prefers a well-thought-out master land-use plan."

The first step by the comprehensive plan committee was to hire consultants with Ochsner, Hare & Hare, a planning, landscape and architectural firm from Kansas City, Mo., to help with the 20-year plan for $50,000.

Dunn said that the firm's expertise has given the committee a good idea of how plans have been designed and implemented in other communities comparatively.

As a third party agent, OHH representatives have briefed local municipalities, school districts and the Leavenworth County Development Corporation on the committee's direction.

"We're really not involved in the day-to-day activities of the county, so we have a fresh perspective when going to local stakeholders," Diane Binckley, senior planner with OHH, said.

Next, the committee drafted a vision statement, elected a committee chair and is now starting to form focus groups for each of the committee's six specific goals: economic development, transportation, parks and recreation, housing, land use and growth management.

Darley said that she's excited and challenged by being a part of such a resident-driven committee.

"A challenge is just a powerful motivator," she said. "You work as fast as you can to get past the obstacles and get to the top."

For Binckley, the most important thing is that a comprehensive plan must be "a workable, useable plan that can be implemented easily."

"We don't want to create something that can't happen," she said.

With an outpouring of growth from the Kansas City Metro area, there is no doubt whether or not Leavenworth will grow in the coming years. The question is, will the county be ready to manage that growth?

Binckley believes it will.

"The thing Leavenworth County has is a clean slate at this point," Binckley said. "They're being proactive rather than reactive by starting with a plan now. They realize development's coming, and they're laying the groundwork for the future now."

The 14 comprehensive planning committee members are: Cindy Brock, Mary Brown, Bob Bozworth, Sabrina Darley, Mark Denney, Robert Doran, Jim Grosdidier, Sally Hatcher, Eugene Heim, Forrest Holdeman, Lynn McLure, Carl Reed, Steve Rosenthal and Larry Smith.

Two committee meetings will be held specifically for the public, although Dunn said residents are welcome at any of the committee's monthly meetings.

He emphasized that residents interested in having their opinion heard should contact the Planning and Zoning Department.

"If anyone's got a point they're dying to get out, we'll make sure the committee gets it," Dunn said.

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