Public Involvement Critical to Success of City’s Comprehensive Plan

Comprehensive Plan Series – Part I – Overview

Perhaps one of the most important documents in City Government is the Comprehensive Plan. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most under-appreciated. In this series, FOCUS will explain the importance of the Comprehensive Plan, why every citizen should care about it, and how to get involved in the process.

To develop the Comprehensive Plan, the City of Marshfield’s Development Services Department staff works with a Steering Committee that provides guidance at each stage of the planning process. At the end, staff put together the entire document, including the narrative, photos, and maps.

The City of Marshfield Plan Commission recently passed a resolution recommending the adoption of the City of Marshfield 2017-2037 Comprehensive Plan. A public hearing to receive comments is scheduled for June 27, 2017 at 7:00 pm in the Common Council Chambers of City Hall (630 S Central Ave) in Marshfield. Following the public hearing, the Common Council will hear the first reading of an ordinance to consider adopting the Comprehensive Plan.

“The Comprehensive Plan is essentially the master plan for future growth and development of the community and acts as the primary guidance document for land use related decisions,” said City Planner Josh Miller.

Quality of life is an important part of the Plan, and Wildwood Zoo would be an example of that.

“Any time a municipality makes a decision about land use, housing, infrastructure, or transportation, it has the potential to affect an individual property owner, a neighborhood, or in some cases, the entire community. The Plan provides recommendations on policies and programs related to housing, transportation, natural resources, land use, as well as others that will have an impact on the future growth and development of Marshfield.”

A lengthy document, the Comprehensive Plan includes background and demographic information which provides a snapshot of where the community is currently.

“A big reason for the Plan being so long is that it includes this information, along with the public feedback, helping to identify where there are constraints for future growth and where there is potential for new development opportunities,” said Miller.

Though each chapter has valuable information, the heart of the Plan is the Implementation Chapter.

“That chapter includes the goals, programs, policies, and recommendations from all the other chapters,” said Miller. “These items are essentially what we work to implement once the Plan is adopted. Other than that, the maps are usually the most interesting component, specifically the maps in the Land Use Chapter. Those maps provide the best ideas of where future growth is likely to occur.”

Public involvement is critical to the development of the Plan.

“Probably the three greatest benefits include: incorporating ideas and policies that otherwise may be excluded, increasing stakeholder buy-in of the plan, and improving communication between residents and public officials,” said Miller.

“There are a number of benefits to involving the public in the planning process, but Residents brings their own experiences to the table. Whether those experiences are good or bad, their insight is valuable when making decisions on such issues as future facilities, maintenance, infrastructure, and development.”

While not every idea that was brought forth during the planning process is included in the Plan, staff utilized some of the more consistent themes that came up to formulate many of the goals, objectives, and recommendations in the Plan.

“Some of the input was not related to topics covered in the Comprehensive Plan; however, a lot was learned from the residents throughout the process and we may still be able to implement some of those suggestions in other ways,” said Miller. “The State of Wisconsin feels so strongly about public participation that each government entity is required to adopt and implement a public participation plan when updating their comprehensive plan. So it’s definitely important.”

An important aspect of the Plan concerns Quality of Life, generally thought of as the overall well-being of a community.

“People of Marshfield expect a good quality of life and more and more, people are choosing where to live based on the quality of life aspect in a given community,” said Miller. “So to continue to retain and attract residents and businesses to Marshfield, it’s very important to maintain what we have here and identify ways to improve on it where we can.”

In most of the chapters of the Plan, staff dedicate a section to “Community Values,” which looks to address quality of life factors.

“Most of that information came from the public feedback we received throughout the planning process,” said Miller.

The Plan is available for review during regular business hours as the Everett Roehl Public Library and Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, in the City Clerk’s office on the 5th Floor of City Hall, or on the City website here.