About one year into the process, Washington’s comprehensive plan steering committee is nearing the end of its task to help create a 10-year plan for the city.

The group discussed the recent public participation session on the plan’s goals and objectives at its Thursday, Dec. 6 meeting, as well as the future land use map.

The committee is working with Dan Lang, of The Lang Gang Inc., a consultant hired by the city, to complete the plan.

The plan includes six focus groups: aesthetics, civic improvement, land use, transportation/infrastructure, parks/recreation/open space and economic development. Each focus group has several goals and objectives to meet.

There are a total of 42 goals and 144 objectives.

Public Participation

Citizens had the opportunity to look at each of the plan objectives and mark on a sheet whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with each one.

For those unable to attend, the survey was available online after the public session.

A total of 22 people attended the public participation session and about the same number filled out online surveys.

Lang explained the results from the public participation session; however, online results had not yet been tabulated. Lang said the online results were similar to the in-person voting.

Each answer was given a numeric value and averaged for an overall score. The closer to one the goal ranked, the more the community favors the objective. The closer to four the goal ranked, the less support it had.

A two ranking means that the community “agrees” and one is “strongly agree.”

Of the 144 objectives, only 13 scored higher than a two.

“I think that’s good news. That means, of the other (131), there was either strong agreement or agreement of those particular objectives,” Lang said.

The most supported goals were about the riverfront and downtown areas.

“Work aggressively to reduce vacancy rates in the city’s downtown area,” scored the closest to one, with a 1.24 score.

A civic improvement goal matched that score. The objective is to “Evaluate possible expansion of the riverfront park area.”

The most supported overall goal was under civic improvement. All objectives under the goal “Work toward enhanced development of the riverfront,” were close to scoring one.

The least supported objective ranked at 2.48. The objective, under economic development, was to “actively pursue development of an office park in the Washington community. “I think it’s because we have quite a bit of office space already,” said Darren Lamb, director of economic development.

After some discussion, the group decided to eliminate the objective from the plan.

Another objective, to “work cooperatively with the development community to attempt to create public open space as part of their projects,” scored 2.32.

The least supported overall goal was under the parks, recreations and open space goal “Preserve and protect special open space resources such as floodplains, wetlands and stream corridors.”

All three objectives scored above a two rating.

The committee discussed eliminating the entire goal, but later decided to keep it as is and present it to the planning and zoning commission for its consideration.

Kurt Voss, a committee member, brought up removing all objectives that scored a two or higher.

“The sense I got is that the government wants to tell me what to do on my property,” Voss said. “I’m a private property rights person.”

Lang pointed out that the scores, even those over two, were closer to agreement than disagreement.

He stressed that not all 144 objectives would be completed in 10 years, but the ratings give the city a sense of direction.

“I always err on the side of having more to do than less,” he said. “The city will be aware of those scores and they can gauge what they focus resources on, as to what people want.”

More effort can be devoted to objectives closer to one and less effort can be devoted to objectives with higher scores, he noted.

John Vietmeier noted that leaving the goals in showed that the idea had been thought through if it comes up in the future.

Another committee member noted that if something is not important now it may be important later and the city can work on the objective.

Ultimately, the objectives were left in the plan for future discussion.

Darren Lamb led the discussion on the future land use maps. Lamb highlighted differences from the 2003 to the 2012 map.

Lang noted that the future land use map is a guide to future development. It is not a zoning map or intended to be a zoning map.

Next Steps

The steering committee will meet again in January to discuss the full draft plan.

A formal public hearing, which will provide a final opportunity for the public to express opinions, is required before the plan is adopted. The hearing will be held before the planning and zoning commission, which will be responsible for adopting the plan.

The Washington City Council is expected to pass a resolution in support of the plan prior to it going to the planning and zoning commission.

The next steering committee meeting will be Thursday, Jan. 24, from 3 to 5 p.m. at city hall.