Catalyst Forum: Plan for Tomorrow


By Zach Tischendorf

You may have heard recently of the County Comprehensive Plan. Our County Commissioners and Area Plan Commission have begun the process of updating our plan, which is a big step toward building our future. They plan to hold another meeting for public input on Monday, April 18, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Spencer County Youth and Community Center in Chrisney, which we encourage everyone to attend.

What exactly is a comprehensive plan? In simple terms, it is a guide created by a community with a vision of its future in mind, especially concerning local economy and public services. It creates an actionable plan that will help the community upgrade infrastructure, preserve land for historic, recreational, and agricultural purposes, and improve housing, business, and industry opportunities. 

The process begins by assessing population, economy, infrastructure, and natural resources, among other information. It is helpful to compare this information to the past ten to twenty years to identify potential trends, especially concerning population, public services, and the economy.

The next step is to seek out public input regarding a vision for the future including towns, schools, and businesses, among other interests. Some may want to see more opportunities for housing or storefronts, others may seek to preserve natural areas or farmland, and still others may wish to attract industry to provide jobs for the next generation. There will be different opinions, but a comprehensive plan is for a community future and should be developed with a representative, diverse steering committee.

In assessing this information, it is important to identify existing strengths and areas of improvement. For example, there may be plenty of treatment capacity in a community, but if housing growth is desired, it should plan to expand water and sewer service to areas suitable for subdivisions. As another example, if it wanted to promote its strong agriculture industry, it would prioritize port, road, and rail improvements to provide cheaper inputs or access to more valuable markets for farmers’ products.

Once end goals are better understood, it is critical to identify potential sites and routes for  development, preservation, and infrastructure. After taking this information into account, the community should determine a set of actionable, achievable goals for the next five years. The plan should also highlight how it can be used, then a county can work toward achieving the goals in its plan.

A comprehensive plan is a document that will change over time and should be updated every five years. It is not a zoning plan, but identifies opportunities for land use and can be helpful to update zoning and subdivision control ordinances. Updating the comprehensive plan also helps keep the county eligible for grants to help make desired improvements. The Catalyst Group would like to commend our elected officials for their commitment to updating our comprehensive plan and we look forward to increased public input and the formation of a steering committee to build a robust comprehensive plan for the future of Spencer County.

Spencer County Catalyst, Inc.