After nearly a year and a half of work by hundreds of community members, a significant update to Wayne County’s comprehensive plan was adopted by the board of commissioners during a regular meeting held on Nov. 27.
This plan proposed many objectives and specific actions to manage development, preserve abundant farmland and green spaces, offer a full range of housing opportunities, and foster economic prosperity.
Updates to the plan began on July 3, 2018, after entering into a contract with Planning NEXT to provide necessary professional services. At the heart of the project was an effort to get the community involved. Phase one consisted of a coordinated series of workshops that focused on gathering input from residents to determine what they felt was essential to address in the plan update.
“We heard from the onset various topics of interest and quality-of-life concerns,” Wayne County planning department director Trevor Hunt said. “The two topics that we would hear time and time again at the public meetings were the need to keep family farms intact and to keep the agriculture community prosperous.”
The plan will serve as a guide for the next decade by providing a framework that preserves and celebrates Wayne County’s rural character, small-town lifestyle, focused economic development and community values.
Guided by this plan, Wayne County will be able to better direct new development and focus on revitalizing existing infrastructure.
It also offers strategies and projects aimed at fostering communities within the county so that they remain great places to live; places where large and small businesses can thrive; places committed to protecting agricultural; places where residents can enjoy recreational opportunities, parks and natural spaces; and places committed to offering affordable and high-quality housing options, along with a wide range of amenities and services.
In all, there were four public workshops and multiple remote kiosks set up at various locations throughout the county to help gather comments from residents, and throughout the process, online activities mimicked in-person activities.
Thanks to this process, it was determined there is a great deal of public sentiment expressing the need to expand and improve recreational amenities.
“Working with our consultant, Planning NEXT, we wanted to optimize participation during [planning] to gain diverse perspectives that could be found throughout the county,” Hunt said. “Planning NEXT has a good bit of experience conducting public processes, so we relied heavily on various mediums that had proven successful in their past planning studies.”
Not only did Planning NEXT provide the experience needed to drive the project, but also they were able to showcase their efforts using the latest technology. This technology was utilized at public meetings, as well as with the design of the website at www.WayneOnward.com.
Hundreds of Wayne County residents took time to make their opinions heard. Thanks to their efforts, a vision for the future began to unfold as four key themes emerged: balancing rural character and growth, improving land-use tools, providing housing options, and supporting parks and trailways.
“Wayne Onward proposes to encourage, protect and guide the orderly development of our mix of rural and urban economies and living,” Wayne County Commissioner Ron Amstutz said about the plan. “Thanks to much public participation and hard work by our staff team, Wayne Onward will serve our county well for years to come. I’m looking forward to advancing the core principles in this plan, along with the prioritization of its many action recommendations as resources allow.”
Thanks to the ideas and values residents found compelling and shared, five goals emerged, resulting in 149 recommended actions to be implemented.
Implementation of the actions requires a sustained commitment and the involvement of a wide range of entities with a variety of focus areas.
While the implementation strategy is critical, it is essential to realize funding for each recommendation is not in place. And unless funding becomes available, some suggestions may not be prioritized.
Many of the county’s core values have not changed since the 1997 plan and 2007 audit. But county leadership sought to update the plan to address current trends and planning issues and to consider new opportunities to shape the county’s future proactively.
A copy of the 2019 comprehensive plan can be downloaded, free of charge, at www.WayneOnward.com.
Dan Starcher is a public communications specialist for the Wayne County board of commissioners.