‘Road map of our future’

The first step in the creation of a new comprehensive plan for the city of Vandalia was taken on Monday afternoon, with city officials and departments providing input to the firm that will develop that plan. Three representatives of Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Inc. first met with department heds, then with Mayor Rick Gottman, City Clerk and city aldermen to get their input. The comprehensive plan, Gottman said, is a master plan that covers such things as land use, economic development, community development and infrastructure. “I look at it as a road map of our future,” Mayor Rick Gottman said last year when the city received a $15,000 check from the Greater Gateway Association of Realtors to help fund the project, estimated to cost as much as $70,000. “We look at what can be done to improve the city and how that can happen,” Gottman said. The new comprehensive plan will be the first one done by a professional third party in more than 20 years. The plan currently used by the city was developed internally in 2001 by a committee that was headed by then-mayor Sandra Leidner and included Gottman, as an alderman. Andrew Murray of PGAV told aldermen during the second meeting on Monday that in creating the comprehensive plan, those involved will they would like to see the city have such things as commercial businesses, parks and streets in the future, and will look at the local utilities, and city and public infrastructure. “We’re looking 20 years into the future, where we want to be (then),” Murray said. The process includes setting goals and objectives, and getting input from local residents, both those who attend public hearings and those who offer opinions to their aldermen. Murray said that PGAV wants to have a plan that works with local planning and zoning controls. “Planning is policy, zoning is the legal construct,” he said. “We want to make sure the plan is realistic,” he said. “If we can’t get to the goals, we will feel like we failed.” The process includes taking an inventory of land uses, which has included city Code Officer Zac Kopp taking Adam Stroud of PGAV down every city street and over a mile and a half outside city limits. The work on the plan includes looking at “what you have today, but most importantly, what do you have available to develop?” Murray said. Jenny Ryan of PGAV asked those at the meetings to write down things they like about Vandalia and what they would like to see in the future. Most popular responses on the first point was “young people buying property, becoming more involved in the community,” the community’s history and its low crime rate. On the second point, one of the more popular answers was improvements in the downtown area, including more unique shops and restaurants. Alderman Andy Lester asked whether the potential four-lane expansion at Vandalia should be considered, and Murray said that it should. “Wherever it goes, you want to have a plan for that,” he said. Lester also asked about the inclusion of Vandalia Lake in the plan, and Murray and Stroud both said it should be considered, especially with the amount of land owned by the city on the north side of the lake. Two points to be considered with the lake, Stroud said, are the opportunities in that area and the fact that the lake needs to be dredged in the next five to 10 years. The next step in the process is getting comments from city residents, and those at the meeting agreed that taking the city’s current zoning and land use maps to clubs and organizations for presentations. The planning firm will hold a public workshop to get residents’ comments and Ryan will be working with City Administrator LaTisha Paslay on ways to get residents present for that workshop, which will have an informal, open-house format.

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