I Thought We Had a Deal?!

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CENTRAL FIRST BLUEb larger    As I sat through years of public meetings and presentations about Central’s Master Plan, I really thought we were laying out the plan for controlled growth for our city.  As I watched hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid to experts to determine land use, flood impact, traffic burdens, and infrastructure needs, I actually believed that the final product, the Master Plan, would serve as a guide for zoning and legislative decisions that will impact this community forever.
    As I watched the legislation get drafted and adopted to translate the vision of the Master Plan into ordinances, I fully anticipated that those ordinances would be followed, to the letter, for years to come.  Well, the finishing touches on the implementation of the Master Plan were made in June of 2014.  Now, a little over two years later, I’m wondering if maybe I was wrong.  Perhaps we didn’t have a deal after all.
    I was fully aware that the Master Plan would, and probably should, evolve and change slightly over time, but I always expected such changes would come after carefully studying the potential impact of those changes.  I sat in the Council meeting in November and listened to numerous citizens plead with the Council to step back and gather more information before making a decision in light of the historic flooding this community just endured.
    Central’s citizens, including the Chairman of Central’s Planning and Zoning Commission, came out and spoke up and asked that the City Council hold off and make a more informed decision before allowing higher density building in the flood-risk Conservation areas of Central.  Central’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-2 and recommended that the City Council NOT approve the higher density. Despite the denial by Planning and Zoning, the change was adopted by the council that evening with no further study.  The Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission resigned, before the end of the week.  I don’t blame him.
    I’m not anti-growth.  I just want Central to grow at a pace that will allow our schools not to be overcrowded, our traffic not to be a nightmare, and our infrastructure to keep up.  This city went through a rigorous process to produce the Master Plan that would accomplish that reasonable growth.  I thought we had a deal?!
    When adhering to the Master Plan supports a matter under consideration, I have sat and listened to elected and appointed officials lecture citizens, telling them how much time and money went into the plan and asking them why they didn’t speak up when the Master Plan was being drafted.  Now I see individual developments or projects spur large rezoning and wholesale changes in the Master Plan without spending one-percent of the effort that went into the drafting the plan in the first place.
    If there is to be a revision of the Master Plan, or if anyone feels the zoning that resulted from that plan is flawed, then take your time, do the work, and show us WHY it needs to be done.  That takes an inconveniently long time, but the decisions that are being made will also affect this city for an inconveniently long time.  This is especially important in the aftermath of the catastrophic flooding we will still be recovering from five years from now.  
    Until that work is done, I have a suggestion.  Let’s stick with the deal we made.  I suggest the city stop rezoning in direct conflict with the Master Plan, and that the city stop issuing “waivers” on every proposed development, effectively sidestepping the legislated intent of the Master Plan.
    It’s simple.  Stop rezoning for the convenience of developers and just stick to the deal we made.  Stop issuing waivers to get around the rules and just stick to the deal we made.  If you want to change the deal, first do the work and show how the change benefits this community.  Honor the deal the city made with the citizens.  That would be Good News for a Great City.


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