More than 50 people gathered in the Bondurant Middle School library on Tuesday evening for the first of two public kick-off meetings regarding the update for the Frankfort/Franklin County comprehensive plan.
Frankfort's Planning and Community Development Director Eric Cockley started the meeting by giving a brief introduction of the city and county staff involved with the update as well as the consulting companies hired to administer the public surveys that will guide how the plan will be written, as well as analyze the results.
The main consultant for the project is McBride Dale Clarion (MDC), a Cincinnati-based firm that specializes in coordinating and managing planning and zoning projects for municipalities across the country.
Elizabeth Fields, a public planning manager for MDC, gave a 45-minute presentation about the overall project, the public survey and the importance of public participation within the comprehensive plan process. She also defined the role that she and MDC would play throughout the project.
"Planning and zoning is what we do, that is what we specialize in, that is all that I do as a staff planner," Fields told the group. "We are not architects, we are not real estate people, we are not developers. We are here to help lead this process and be the ones to take in all the information and help analyze it and help create a vision that is yours and not ours."
MDC will be aided by two other consulting firms, Human Nature and Strand Associates. Human Nature, also from Cincinnati, will be responsible for environmental planning, including open spaces, parks and recreation. Strand Associates, which has an office in Lexington, will focus on transportation, utilities and infrastructure.
The comprehensive plan process has been broken down into four phases and is projected to be completed by June of next year.
Phase one, which started in February, is for initial research and analysis and is conducted through engaging the public and community stake holders. This phase is expected to end in July after the second kick off meeting.
Phase two will consist of demographic and geographic analysis as well as exploring different development scenarios, drafting objectives and establishing the plan's themes.
The third phase will be for drafting the plan and the fourth and final phase will be the formal adoption of the plan after a public review.
Fields noted in her presentation that Kentucky requires communities to update the comprehensive plan at least every five years. She said that a lot of communities simply re-adopt the existing plan. Frankfort/Franklin County has not overhauled its plan since 2001.
"It has been updated minimally throughout the last 20 years, but there have not been any significant updates and changes," Fields said. "So we are using this opportunity to think fresh and start new while also making sure that the items, goals and policy from that last plan that still ring true."
The rest of her presentation was spent going over the survey that has been made available to the public on the comprehensive plan website, www.distilledtogether.com.
The 17-question survey asks people who live, work and/or play in the area questions about what they value about Frankfort/Franklin County. Additionally it asks what features they might want to see in the future.
For example, one of the questions asks the participant to pick what topics should be prioritized over the next decade. The topics listed include: agricultural preservation, community development, more jobs, tourism opportunities and transportation/infrastructure to name a few.
Of the 50-plus in attendance, several were community leaders and elected officials from both the city and the county as well as those seeking office in the November election.
First District Magistrate Sherry Sebastian said that the fact that Frankfort and Franklin County are going through the complete process to update the plan is a positive step.
"I'm glad we are doing the full process," she said after the presentation. "I am looking forward to actually hearing what members of the community have to say because the key to this is how do we thoughtfully become the community that we want to be. How do we prepare the community for our children and for folks we are trying to attract to our community? We also want to build a community that folks that are living here currently, want to stay in."
Frankfort Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge said that she was encouraged by the number of people who came to the meeting and that she hopes for a more diverse group at the second meeting on July 27. Additionally, she is looking forward to information that will help city and county boards make decisions regarding economic development.
"I am hoping that more people will come out or at least log onto the website and take the survey," Waldridge said. "I feel this is a heartened step in Frankfort's future. I know it is going to take about a year or so, but I am hoping that as Commissioner [Anna Marie] Rosen shared last night, that we can get it moving a little bit faster so we can figure out property lines, any available property to be known now so we can start working on that. So we can fill in at public meetings. That is something we need to do now, because economic development drives everything we saw here."
Third District Magistrate Michael Mueller, who is also the Democratic candidate for judge-executive, said that he likes seeing the city and county working together towards the common good. He also looks forward to the open dialogue this process will foster.
"I really hope they get the numbers out as far as what the people really want. I think it is just about having the conversation and the more we can learn about what people in this community want, the better off we'll all be. I think everyone wants the same thing — a vibrant community, a vibrant downtown, vibrant park systems, quality of life," Mueller said.
Ken Carroll, Republican candidate for judge-executive, was also on hand and said that the meeting was a good start and he was glad to see that the consultants are covering the area's more pertinent issues. However, Carroll said that he does have some issues with the fiscal side of what the survey might show.
"The concerns that I have initially related to what I understand to be a pretty good imbalance between what I would call the growth segment of the bigger group, being about 20%, and the anti-growth segment being like 80%," Carroll said after the meeting. "I think we need more balance there. Because ultimately to have things like the natatorium or performing arts center, all the enhancements and the infrastructure and everything else; if we don't have significant growth to pay for those things, then you either have to do without them or you are going to have to raise taxes. I am not going to raise taxes."
The second meeting, which will have the same agenda as the first meeting, will take place on July 27 at 5:30 p.m. at Franklin County High School. The public is encouraged to fill out the survey on the website.