What is a Comprehensive Plan?
Before you build your home you have to decide on the details first by drawing up some plans. Starting without any kind of planning tends to lead to some very confusing and disappointing results. Much in the same way, a Comprehensive Plan is how we sketch out how we would like to build our “homes” in the larger sense of the word; our communities, our services, and our character. Comprehensive Plans look at all of the “parts” of our community, and asks citizens to determine how all of those parts can be used to make a better home for us all in the coming years.
Comprehensive plans typically take 1-2 years to complete, as they are quite involved. They usually begin with some form of public input, so that citizens have a chance to weigh in from the very beginning on what should be included in the plan. Once the public input stage of the planning process is done, there is a period where staff and community leaders begin to build a plan out of what the public has given them. This is often the longest portion of the planning process; those tasked with building the plan are often working hard to take what the public has requested and find a financially responsible yet timely way to accomplish those goals. Once those in charge of building the plan feel confident in their document, they will bring it back to the public to review. There are usually some minor (and sometimes major) revisions to this document that are suggested by Elected and Appointed bodies, as well as from the public. Once everyone is comfortable with the Plan, it is usually formally adopted by the governing body, and the work of implementing the plan begins.
What are we doing in Mills River?
The Making Mills River Comprehensive Plan is the first true “comprehensive” plan that the Town has ever undertaken. The Town adopted a Land Use Plan in 2005, though it has not been updated in some time, and doesn’t look at some of the other aspects of the Town’s services and policies. For that reason, the Making Mills River Comprehensive Plan will cover 7 primary topics:
Natural and Agricultural Resources
Community Facilities and Services
Parks and Recreation
Infrastructure and Economic Development
In order to get as much feedback as possible the Town is taking several measures to reach out to its citizens: we will be distributing a Town-wide survey that addresses all of the topics listed above, hosting 4 public input sessions in various places throughout the Town, and will have opportunities for public comment at all of our Steering Committee Meetings. This website is another way that we are hoping to keep the public involved, by keeping relevant and timely information hosted here throughout the process.
Once we have gathered input from our citizens our Steering Committee will begin the work of drafting recommendations for the plan. The Steering Committee (comprised of residents, business owners, elected officials, appointed leaders, and staff) will take each topic area on in a series of meetings, and make suggestions based on the input given for each topic. We will also have stakeholders and leaders in the areas of focus for that meeting attend to help inform the discussions the Steering Committee has.
Once each topic area has been discussed with recommendations agreed upon, a draft version of the final Comprehensive Plan will be offered to the public, Planning Board, and Town Council for comment. Those comments will be incorporated into an edited Plan, which will then be presented to Town Council for adoption. Once the plan is adopted, however, there is still work to be done. The Comprehensive Plan does not immediately change any policies or regulations; rather, it lays out a road map of things that should be considered for change or review. The process of adopting those changes is called “implementation”, which is an ongoing project. Additionally, once every 5 or so years, the plan will need to be reviewed and amended to make sure it stays current, actionable, and in line with the current goals of the Town.