Comprehensive Plan Update Underway

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11By Terry Rogers

On Monday, April 11, Rob Pierce, Milford City Planner, provided City Council with a timeline for updating the Comprehensive Plan. According to Mr. Pierce, the state requires that the City review the plan every five years and revise every ten years. The last revision for the plan was approved in July 2009. In addition, the Southeast Milford Master Plan was approved by the city in 2011, but it was recommended that the two plans be combined into one.

“We hope to engage a consultant by July 2016, but hope to begin developing a draft of the plan concepts in April of this year,” Mr. Pierce said. “Once that is complete, we hope to send out a questionnaire to citizens in order to begin getting their input. Public workshops will be held from October 2016 through March 2017. We hope to present the revisions to the Planning Commission in April 2017 in preparation for City Council approval in May 2017. The plan will then be sent to the state for final approval so that it is ready to go by September 2017.”

Eric Norenberg, City Manager, said that a revision of the Comprehensive Plan was a priority set by council when he was hired and that the plan has a number of implications in the city. He said that he felt the key was engaging the public in the process and that he expects public workshops to be held in each ward.

“This all falls on the Planning Commission,” David Rutt, City Solicitor, said. “The Planning Commission does all the footwork for this and then makes a recommendation to council. If a property owner wants his land use modified, this is the opportunity to make those changes.” According to Mr. Pierce, the request for a land use change should be in writing and the Planning Commission reviews the request and balances its decision with what benefits the city. In addition, the commission must take into consideration goals of the state when making their decision.

Councilwoman Katrina Wilson expressed concern about the length of time it could take for a developer to receive zoning changes if they were required to go through the Comprehensive Plan process first. There was discussion about developers approaching council members regarding rezoning lands for economic development. Some of the property in question is located in the Southeast section of Milford, although the developers name, project or property discussed were not mentioned at the meeting.

“Here we are in a situation of economic growth and we are not ready,” Councilwoman Wilson said, referring to a request received from several members of council by a developer who was requesting a zoning change sooner. “I don’t understand why we can’t, as a council, make an amendment to the plan so that we don’t miss an opportunity.” Mr. Rutt explained that even an amendment must go through the legal process.

Mayor Bryan Shupe said that council needed to be sure they had done everything through the proper legal channels. He also felt it was important that residents were heard before any major zoning changes were approved.

“It is encouraging to see the amount of excitement surrounding Milford from current businesses, developers and potential investors over the last two years,” Mayor Shupe said in a press release sent to media later that week. “We have gained statewide recognition for our efforts and we will continue to work with public and private partners on projects that will positively impact the lives of Milford residents. When projects require special considerations, including zoning adjustments to accommodate future land use, the city has a responsibility to consider these amendments in a public forum so that adjustments can be considered holistically, working with land owners, residents and other parties potentially impacted.”

Mr. Rutt explained that he had discussed the need to follow the comprehensive plan review with attorneys for developers and that he felt that they understood the need for the city to go through the correct channels in order to plan for future growth in the city.

“I don’t want to miss out on economic development because we make a developer wait,” Councilwoman Wilson said. “If it will create economic growth, I want to be ready. There is a developer out there who wants this amendment before the plan is completed and I think council needs to be aware of that.”

In addition to reviewing the timeline for the Comprehensive Plan review, council voted unanimously to issue a non-binding letter of intent that would allow the city to begin working with American Municipal Power (AMP) regarding the possibility of implementing Smart Meters in the city. Mr. Norenberg is researching whether USDA funding was available as well as other grants to help fund the project should the city decide to implement the program.

Council was introduced to two ordinance changes related to Property Maintenance Code and Building Construction Code. Those ordinances will be discussed and voted on at a future meeting. Mayor Shupe also reminded council that an election will be held on Saturday, April 23 for the seat vacated by Councilman Garret Grier at the end of his term. He reminded everyone that, in order to vote in the city election, residents must be registered with the city. State and federal election registration does not automatically grant residents permission to vote in Milford. Archie Campbell and Anne Villalobos are vying for the vacant seat.

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