Feedback from the community is now being taken into consideration for the comprehensive plan project being made by Dodge City officials.

City staff conducted stakeholder meetings, public workshops, utilized engagement software and a general online survey during February and March and will be put into a draft plan that will be taken before the City Commission and Planning Commission and presented at a public hearing.

"A Comprehensive Plan is a roadmap that a community can use to define its collective goals and desires, ultimately expressing the fundamental image and direction of the community," said city planning and zoning administrator Nathan Littrell in a news release. "This plan will guide city staff when developing projects and community policy decisions, looking at current and future land, and much more."

Cities are required to create comprehensive plans that are updated on an annual basis according to the needs of the community, Kansas State Statute, 12-747, mandates the usage of and sets standards for comprehensive plans.

Feedback from the community is another statutory requirement.

Five categories city staff felt were most important were the main focus of the public engagements.

The categories were selected based on future importance for the city.

"(However) themes could change based on what community members said was important to them," Littrell said. "There was overlap in what community members brought up compared to the broad themes we drafted to start the engagement process.

"A lot of the wants and needs paralleled what staff already saw as needing to be included in the plan already."

"The public engagement process was a significant team effort," assistant city manager and public affairs Melissa McCoy said. "We had many staff members working together to pull in as much input as possible between the online software and survey, numerous public sessions, as well as scheduled sessions with various stakeholder groups.

"We wanted our data to represent the diversity of our community.

"To do that we scheduled sessions with classes at the Learning Center, ESL students at Dodge City Community College, leadership groups from the community, board members from different entities and more."

A hiring consultant to facilitate the sessions was made because of a concern in the process that residents would be hesitant to talk with staff openly about what they felt should be included in the plan along with potentially biased-leading conversation.

To facilitate sessions for the duration of the public engagement period, the city hired Terri Mujica-McClain, out of the Kansas City area, who also served as the consultant for the University Center project.

To help the city save and make the most out of residents’ tax dollars, Mujica-McClain utilized her time on her trips for both projects.

"The amount of feedback we received from the community was much greater than we expected," Littrell said. "It’s great to see that the people care, and having a consultant aided in that by letting staff listen to what was said rather than worry about unintentionally leading the conversation in any way.

"Economic development was a leading topic with wants of new retail, supporting and expanding existing businesses, and diversifying our businesses.

"Other topics reassured staff that the city is already moving in the right direction as people brought up items that are currently being worked on."

Some of the popular themes that were mentioned that the city has already been working on were affordable housing and rentals; curbside recycling; improved street maintenance; expansion and improvement of Wright Park Zoo; and securing and preserving water resources.

The city is nearing the finish line, but creating comprehensive plans is a lengthy process.

The schedule of dates for the next steps in the process are:

• April 30, Post Draft online — Draft of Comprehensive Plan will be posted online and made available for the public to review.

• May 6, City Commission Work Session — City Commission will conduct a work session and make recommendations for revision of the plan.

• May 14, Planning Commission Work Session — Planning Commission will hold a work session and make recommendations for revision of plan.

• May 22, Public Hearing — Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing.

• June 3, Adoption — City Commission will consider approving recommendation of Planning Commission and adoption Plan by Ordinance.

Contact Littrell for more information on the comprehensive plan and the next steps before it is adopted, at nathanl@dodgecity.org or 620-225-8105.

Follow the city on social media or its website at www.dodgecity.org for updates.

 

To contact the writer, email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com.