Jasper city council

City preparing comprehensive plan

City leaders are in the process of putting together a comprehensive plan that will help move the city forward. The new plan will replace the current comprehensive plan that was put in place in 1999. Jasper City planner Keith Pike said a comprehensive plan is, simply put, “a long-term goal” of what’s going on in a city, broken down into shorter terms. “It’s really a guide to growth and development for public officials and citizens who help shape the community,” Pike said. The city is working with the Birmingham-based KPS Group, which provides architecture, interior design, planning and related consulting services across the southeast. Among the things a comprehensive plan can do is to present a vision for future land use, to prepare the city for growth and provide a reliable basis for public and private investments in the future. “There are many points of value in a comprehensive plan,” Jasper Mayor David O’Mary said this week. “First, it helps you see your way forward. It helps you go in a direction that you want to go in, as opposed to wandering around aimlessly.” A second point of value, O’Mary said, is that major industrial prospects always want to know what they can expect from a city before they consider locating there. “They want to know that you have your hands around what you’re doing,” he said. “A comprehensive plan kind of validates that.” Absent of a comprehensive plan, many business prospects will simply walk away, he added. Pike said, on average, the life of a comprehensive plan is 20 years. “The plan we have on the shelf today is 20 years old,” O’Mary said, “and it aged out a long time ago. The world is evolving at a rapid pace, and unfortunately a plan just can’t have value for 20 years.” “What’s changed significantly in the last 20 years is our downtown area,” Pike said. “It’s totally transformed in the past 20 years.” The biggest change is perhaps the opening of Interstate 22. “I-22 was still segmented when we were working on the plan that’s in place now,” Pike said.

Because of the many changes that can occur over 20 years, O’Mary said he’s hoping to enact a mandate that calls for a new comprehensive plan every five years. “... and updated as necessary,” he added. In order to create a new comprehensive plan, O’Mary said input from a variety of people is needed. “Our approach to this new plan is to have input from the City Council,” O’Mary said, “and various segments of the community will also have input in what they want the city to look like moving forward.” That input from a cross-section of residents is crucial. “You gather all this information and put it in a format that you can use and work toward what the community wants, because at the end of the day, this city doesn’t exist just for the mayor or the city council, it exists for the taxpayers of the city.” O’Mary said public meetings will be held over the next few months to allow for residents to give their input on what they want from the city in the future. Separate meetings will be held with business owners in Jasper, Pike said. “That’s a really beautiful part of this process,” O’Mary said. Pike said KPS Group will also be doing online surveys, as well as placing surveys throughout the city to those who do not have access to internet. “Those surveys are used to see what’s important to our residents,” Pike said. “Although this will be the City of Jasper’s comprehensive plan, it really belongs to the citizens of Jasper,” he added. Once all the information is gathered, KPS Group will begin actual development of the new comprehensive plan. Putting together a comprehensive plans isn’t easy, Pike said, and it does take time. It’s expected to take until the end of 2019 before it can be completed and put into place. It’s also not an inexpensive process. “This is not cheap to do,” O’Mary said, “but it’s very costly if you don’t have it. I’m just pleased that we have the financial resources to do what we’re doing, and that we’re doing it the right way.”