City’s comprehensive planning process deserves local input

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The words “comprehensive plan” and “zoning regulations” made the local headlines in 2019, and they will again in 2020 though on a smaller geographic scale.
As the new year begins, we urge local residents to tune into a process about to unfold at City Hall. City leaders have hired a planning consultant to update its comprehensive plan for the first time in 10 years, with the end result expected to be like “painting a picture of what the community can be,” according to Bobbi Pettit with Five Rule Rural Planning.
Pettit has met with the Aurora Planning Commission several times and is now in the process of finalizing an inventory of existing housing and commercial buildings. Part of her contract with the city is to complete a detailed housing study, which should provide interesting and useful information on several fronts.
“Your housing stock is in fairly good shape, you just need more of it,” Pettit told city planners at a meeting in late November, noting a particular housing need in the $100,000-$200,000 price range. We’ve heard that before from local realtors, as well as would-be home buyers.
All of this information, and much more, will be outlined in a series of preliminary maps to be on display at City Hall Jan. 22. The News-Register will preview that exhibit, as well as the city’s goal for updating its comprehensive plan, in a story to be published next week.
Though community planning requires a lengthy, detailed process involving research, writing, public hearings, etc., it is important that local residents pay attention and engage. All the proof you need to reach that conclusion is the heated wind energy debate that unfolded in recent months here in Hamilton County.
Regardless of how you feel about wind turbines or the specific Hamilton County Wind LLC proposal, the reality is that process could have been a lot less painful for all involved had the details about setbacks, health risks and property value concerns been more clearly defined and resolved as the comprehensive plan and zoning regs were being written. Public input should and does matter, and in the end it swayed the county’s final wind energy decision, though there was far more conflict than necessary because that conversation came later rather than sooner.
Aurora residents should take that lesson to heart and tune in to the details of the city’s pending plan as this process begins.
Kurt Johnson

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