Citizens Advisory Committee to kick off year-long process
The New Richmond Comprehensive Plan, one of the most important documents that city officials will be developing in the coming year, will get a robust kickoff as the Citizens Advisory Committee—a group that will help with the document's development—meets Tuesday, Feb. 21, 4-6 p.m., at the fire station.
Getting the advisory committee initiated began back in January, city Community Development Director Beth Thompson said.
But even before the establishment of this citizen's committee, Thompson, City Administrator Mike Darrow and other staff gathered citizens together to help decide which firm the city would select to lead the comprehensive plan process.
The firm that has been hired is the Weber Planning Group.
"The comprehensive plan looks 10 to 20 years into the future," Thompson said. "With the bridge coming through ... this will be the most important document we will have," she added.
So, to make the comprehensive plan viable, Thompson and Darrow both agreed that having input from citizens from across the community involved is an important aspect for planning the future.
The advisory committee members who have been selected to participate in the comprehensive plan development will commit to about 11 months of meetings—meetings that will be held once per-month for two hours.
"All members [of the citizens advisory group] will meet at the same time ... it will be a large group meeting," Thompson said.
"The process will become lengthy ... and we expect that people won't attend every meeting ... but we will need 10 to 15 people at each meeting to make it work."
Darrow added, "We need a good mix of people," he said.
To get the process started after the selection of Weber Planning Group to lead the process, according to Thompson, is to gather as much background information for the group as possible. Thompson has spent the past few weeks gathering plans that have already been adopted so that the advisory group members will have those available as they begin to brainstorm ideas for the future.
"The city is filled with people who care about what's going on," Darrow said. "They will be helping to establish policies for the next 10 years or more ... It will be a fun process for them and an opportunity for them to meet people they may not know and for [city officials] to meet people who haven't been a part of government in the past."
"This is all 'big picture' stuff," Thompson said. "They will be asked to envision what they feel the city will look like in 10 or 20 years. What do they think about the downtown? Do they want more parks? More trails?"
Having an eclectic group of people, Darrow said, is critically important in the planning process. "We will want the young and the old; we want people who are new to the process. There will be no wrong answers. This is pie in the sky ... how do they want to mold the future is what we will be looking for," Darrow said.
For those involved with the committee, Thompson said there won't be a lot of 'homework.'
The committee members will be asked to solicit input from others they know or people in their neighborhood. They will be asked to inquire about what others are thinking and to bring those ideas back to the monthly meeting for discussion.
The initial meeting to be held Feb. 21 will be broken into two parts. From 4-4:50 p.m., the committee meeting will include introductions of the advisory committee; city staff and consultant introductions; the role of the committee; the meeting facilitator; procedures; meeting dates and times; materials to be sent prior to meetings; other participating and communication elements; homework before each meeting; the next meeting's time and place; and other organizational matters.
From 5-6 p.m., the group will focus on issue identification.
"We can say this is important," Darrow said, "but it will mean more to [the city] when the community buys into the process."
As the process proceeds and ideas are developed, Thompson said there will be periodic "open houses" for the community members at-large to attend and review ideas developed by the committee.
"Over the next year there will be three to four opportunities for folks to attend an open house," Thompson said.
In addition to the live large group meetings where ideas will be generated, and in addition to the open houses where those ideas will be on display, the city will also utilize social media as much as possible to disseminate the ideas to the public.
City officials also plan to make presentations to outlying town units of government to help keep them apprised of developments.
As Thompson, Darrow and city officials will be asking members of the committee to put on their "thinking caps," they said in a press release this week that this is "... an exciting and thought-provoking way to help us all begin to think about what we should work on as we create this plan, and what are some of the top opportunities and challenges facing New Richmond. Every idea counts, every idea has merit."
Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee:
Pastor Kevin Morris
Laura Jo Jarchow