Representatives from Houseal Lavigne, a Chicago consulting firm, were in Jackson last week to gather input to update the city’s comprehensive plan.
Three separate meetings were held with city and elected officials (Monday), residents (Tuesday) and businesses (Wednesday).
At each meeting, Josh Koonce, a senior planner for the firm, explained the purpose of a comprehensive plan.
The plan is intended to look ahead 20 years and get Jackson where it needs to be.
“A comprehensive plan is a document that historically would have been a dense book of text and a land-use map that sat on a planner’s shelf. If you went back 20-30 years, that’s probably what it was,” Koonce said during the meeting with residents Oct. 25 in the Jackson Civic Center.
However, “A good comprehensive plan should not be a dense, thick, book of text with a land-use map. Nobody wants to look at that or read that. More and more these days the plan needs to be something anyone can pick up, understand, and get an idea of where the community wants to go in the future,” Koonce said.
“Increasingly, these are documents that touch on all aspects of life,” he continued. “These documents are still focused on land use; what are the future land uses — residential areas, commercial areas, industrial areas — that the city wants to see ideally long term? That’s still the overall focus of the comprehensive plan. But they also touch on things like parks and recreation, community facilities, trails, bike lanes, sidewalks, all the physical components that make a community great.”
Comprehensive plans “provide the tools for your city leaders — elected and appointed officials and city staff — to move the needle incrementally toward the future we want to see,” Koonce explained.
Jackson’s current comprehensive plan was created by the same Chicago firm in 2009. While the plan is still relevant, Koonce said it’s starting to get “a little long in the tooth” and added that it “is probably about due for some updates that reflect some of the stuff we were just talking about.”
An updated comprehensive plan doesn’t wipe the slate clean. If there are still relevant points to the old plan, they are carried forward into the new plan.
The new plan will include some of the 2009 plan and fold in other studies, such as the 2018 Major Street Plan, and other studies conducted during the past 13 years.
What does it do?
“We sometimes say it is a blueprint or a road map for our communities,” Koonce said. “This isn’t going to be your zoning code. It’s not the law,” he said. It gives consistent community-driven guidance over decades while city staff may come and go.
A good comprehensive plan needs to engage the community and be build upon what the community wants to see, he said. It needs to identify the community’s desires and aspirations.
It really does three things: it establishes where we are today, where we want to go and how are we going to get there, Koonce summarized.
The residents who attended were divided into groups and each group marked on a city map what changes they would like to see. About a dozen residents participated in the workshop.
Some of their ideas included more grocery stores, more biking and walking trails; more areas of affordable housing; creating an Uptown area of several blocks that is accessible only by walking; adding non-sport entertainment spots for young people, such as as go-karts or laser tag; and installing solar panels over the high school parking lot like those at the Show Me Center.
On Wednesday morning, a half dozen representatives from the business community expressed concerns they have operating a business in Jackson and offered some possible solutions. The biggest concerns involved a lack of employees and need for workforce training, and difficulties resulting from competing with businesses in Cape Girardeau.
They saw a need for more medium-sized storefront shops.
Koonce said the process of creating a new comprehensive plan takes about a year.
Residents or business people can add their input online by filling out a questionnaire that is available with a link through the city’s website, www.jacksonmo.org, or the city’s Facebook page. In addition, you can go directly to the comprehensive plan website: hla.fyi/jackson-MO.