City and county officials can point to several improvements that resulted from the first comprehensive plan the local governments developed together, and said they expect to see a similar impact from the next version.
Allen County and the City of Fort Wayne want to start work on the next version next January and are issuing a request for proposals from consulting teams to help with that. The proposals are due July 16.
Their first jointly created comprehensive plan, called Plan-it Allen, was adopted in 2007. They said in a statement many elements of the plan have been accomplished or have become outdated.
The next version of the plan will:
• create a shared vision for future growth and development,
• encompass meaningful and inclusive public engagement
• identify stakeholders
• establish clear guidance with a user-friendly document
• establish an achievable implementation plan
In addition to Allen County and Fort Wayne, the next version of the comprehensive plan will provide guidance for Huntertown, Grabill, Monroeville and Woodburn.
There is nothing in the Indiana Code saying counties and the cities within them must update comprehensive plans, but Sarah Jones, a principal planner for the Allen County Department of Planning Services, said the state recommends that take place every 10 years.
“So that is not required,” she said. “Most communities just update every five to 10 years — it depends.”
Kim Bowman, executive director of the Allen County Department of Planning Services, mentioned the alignment of city and county zoning ordinances, the adoption of consistent traffic infrastructure standards and the updating of building ordinances for minor subdivisions not served by public sewer as Plan-it Allen strategies that brought about improvement.
The county building ordinance update was completed in 2008 and the development of consistent standards for pedestrian traffic infrastructure was accomplished in 2014, when the county lengthened the width of requirements for new sidewalks by a foot so their new 5-foot width would be same as the city’s Bowman said.
By 2014, the city and county zoning ordinances were 90% to 95% aligned, “somewhat from the comprehensive plan, somewhat in response to the city and the county land use management departments merging,” she said.
Another important Plan-it Allen strategy was to continue the viability of strategic community and economic development assets, Bowman said.
“One way we did that was through the development of the airport overlay district,” she said. “Both Fort Wayne and Allen County adopted the same standard for development around both Smith Field and Fort Wayne International Airport so that incompatible development would not affect airport operations.
“For example, there was a housing development that was proposed near Fort Wayne International and the airport was very concerned about that and the developer actually withdrew the request for the housing development,” Bowman said.
“But we worked with the airport authority, and (its airports executive director) Scott Hinderman specifically, and his consultants in developing these standards for developing along the airport,” she said.
An important step toward updating the comprehensive plan will take place when Greater Fort Wayne rolls out this fall a 5-year economic development strategy for all of Allen County. John Urbahns, GFW’s president and chief executive officer, announced the undertaking during its annual meeting June 13.
Elements of the GFW strategy will feed nicely into an economic development chapter, which will be part of the comprehensive plan for Allen County and the communities within it, said Sherese Fortriede, a senior planner for Fort Wayne’s Community Development Division.
The chapter will be important because the landscape of economic development has changed considerably during the last 10 years, Fortriede said.
For example, a strategy in Plan-it Allen supports carefully planned, coordinated, compatible mixed-use developments “and what we’ve learned over the 10 years plus since the last plan is there are a lot of community thoughts about what’s compatible and what types of developments they would want to reside next to,” she said.
“And so that really needs to be updated. We need a better definition of what is compatible and what is coordinated if some of our rezoning public hearings over the past several years are very contentious and it involves typically a non-residential type of use that’s going in a residential area.”
“That’s why they’ve all told me and we know that public input will be so important in this process too, to make sure that it meets our community’s expectations,” said Mary Tyndall, public information officer for the division.
The county and cities within it need to share a common vision for the future and their comprehensive plan needs to reflect that, said Cindy Joyner, director for Fort Wayne’s Community Development Division.
“It’s really important to be able to lay that groundwork for a vision to take us into the future and make sure that we’re actually making this vibrant community that everybody wants to play and live and work in,” she said.
The comprehensive plan needs to contribute to talent attraction and population growth by helping to guide quality of place improvement, Joyner said.
“We want everybody to feel there is a place within Fort Wayne and Allen County for them. And so it’s really important to create that vision and make sure that our community is embracing that vision,” she said.
Comprehensive plan creation is governed by state law and takes place under the leadership of a plan commission or multiple plan commissions.