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Local

Supervisors hold workshop to talk comprehensive plan

Current 22-year-old plan is outdated

Planning and Zoning Community Development Director Nick Fratzke and Hometown Pride community coach Jeff Davidson speak with the Jasper County Board of Supervisors about creating a new comprehensive plan to replace the current 22-year-old guideline.
Planning and Zoning Community Development Director Nick Fratzke and Hometown Pride community coach Jeff Davidson speak with the Jasper County Board of Supervisors about creating a new comprehensive plan to replace the current 22-year-old guideline.

All it took to convince the board of supervisors that Jasper County needed a new comprehensive plan was knowing its current guideline was first implemented 22 years ago.

After its public meeting and a brief closed session Tuesday morning, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors scheduled a workshop with Community Development Director of Planning and Zoning Nick Fratzke, Hometown Pride Community Coach Jeff Davidson and Jasper County Economic Development Corporation (JEDCO) Executive Director Chaz Allen to discuss the creation of a new plan to replace the current guideline, which they believe will take approximately one year to develop.

This is not the first time the county has addressed the need for an updated comprehensive plan. In September, Fratzke introduced the board of supervisors to representatives of JEO Consulting Group Inc., a full-service municipal engineering firm with Iowa branch offices in Ankeny and Carroll. Both professional planners organized a presentation for the board, detailing the firm’s process of constructing a comprehensive plan for Jasper County, which they described as a “pretty straightforward, problem-solving process.”

At the workshop, Fratzke explained a comprehensive plan is the “broadest general vision of what we want to see happen in Jasper County” and becomes “the basis for specific regulations, ordinances and programs that implement the vision.”

The plan, which is ultimately determined and adopted by the board of supervisors, would allow county officials to strategically focus its limited resources on the most important aspects in the area.

According to the outline of the Tuesday supervisors work session, typical topics covered in a comprehensive plan include “economic development, protecting prime agricultural land, sustainability (floodplain management, soil and water conservation, sensitive environmental areas, solar and wind energy), focusing residential development in certain areas, recreation and creating great communities and places where people want to live.”

Developing a comprehensive plan is a community effort driven not only by planners and county officials, but also by the citizens and town leaders in the county. Fratzke said he would personally like to focus on getting “all the other towns of Jasper County involved,” including unincorporated villages like Galesburg, Valeria and Ira. A county comprehensive plan may be the only planning document associated with these particular towns

Establishing a well-thought-out vision is one of the first steps to creating a comprehensive plan. Doug Cupples, vice chair of the board of supervisors, said, “We want to be an attractive county, all four corners of us, for people to come live.”

Davidson told the supervisors a key concept they may want to take a position on is where growth should take place in the county. Should it be focused in the cities? Or should they look for areas in the unincorporated county? Although the pressure to develop in strictly urban or rural areas is not as high in Jasper County, Davidson said it will nonetheless be an important position for the supervisors to take following the creation of the comprehensive plan.

Economic development was a key point of interest at the Tuesday morning workshop. Allen said more developers are beginning to reach out to Jasper County instead of places like Bondurant and Altoona, which he said have become saturated. Furthermore, Davidson argued the western portions of the Des Moines metro area is becoming a less desirable place to live, comparing the area to suburban Chicago.

“The east side of the metro, I think, is going to receive a lot of attention in the next 10 years,” Davidson said. “The phenomenon we have here in Jasper County that’s so exciting is that you look at Baxter, Newton, Colfax, Prairie City (and) Monroe are the first distinct towns. Even Ankeny, Bondurant, Altoona you feel like you’re part of the metro.”

Creating a comprehensive plan to take advantage of the phenomenon or trend Davidson described could lead to better commercial or residential development opportunities. Having a plan in place will offer general guidance to how the supervisors would like to see development occur. Fratzke can then make sure Jasper County has the policies, incentives and programs in place to implement the vision.

What a developer wants most is being ready to go, Davidson added. Establishing properties with clear rules and an engineer’s perspective on nearby roads is important to developers. Allen said smaller towns in Jasper County like Sully and Prairie City are excited to be apart of the comprehensive plan and provide input for the new vision.

Davidson said the supervisors need to make sure they mention their priorities for the county when finding a consultant to help create the new comprehensive plan. Supervisor Brandon Talsma said his priorities would be residential development (especially in rural communities), small business development and ag-based tourism.

Cupples said it would also be important to involve current business owners in Jasper County in the planning process in order to help grow or support their business. He also supported the inclusion of recreational efforts in Jasper County, including bike trails.

When drafted, the Jasper County comprehensive plan would cover the next 10 to 20 years but would need to be reviewed every two to five years and revised when deemed necessary.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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