Goshen working as a pilot city in sustainability program while updating comprehensive plan
GOSHEN — While city planners work to update Goshen’s 10-year comprehensive plan, they’re also working to help set sustainability guidelines for the American Planning Association.
The city’s comprehensive plan is the official guide that will lead Goshen in future development. The current plan, which covered the years 2004 to 2013, has ended, and city planning staff is working on an update.
As the planning department prepared to begin the update process, department officials applied to the APA’s pilot program focused on sustainability of cities.
“APA’s tossing around the idea of developing a designation program for comprehensive plans in sustainability,” said Abby Wiles, assistant planning and zoning administrator for the city.
“They’re asking the pilot communities to review these standards and see if they can be applied.”
The APA named 10 municipalities throughout the country as pilot cities. The pilot cities will help the organization establish sustainability standards for comprehensive plans that can be realistically met by any city that applies for the distinction in the future.
Several factors made Goshen a prime candidate for the program.
Wiles said that in Goshen’s application, the focus was on the city’s lack of economic diversity, “complicated” land-use pattern and decreasing average household incomes.
The cities selected as pilots range in size from large cities like Seattle and Oklahoma City to Savona, N.Y., with just less than 900 residents.
“They wanted to have a diverse group of communities to be able to ensure that the standards could be applied across the board,” Wiles said.
“Some of the things are very difficult for a small community like Goshen, or even South Bend, to do,” she said.
“So that’s what the APA’s more or less looking for in the pilot communities — for us to review the standards and see what we could truly apply.”
The APA sent pilot cities a list of 54 criteria, or standards, city planners must try to work into their comprehensive plans.
Once plans are submitted by the 10 pilot cities, the APA will look over the results and decide what criteria should be included in their standards for sustainable city plans.
After those standards are set, they will be used to determine whether future plans submitted by any city are worthy of the sustainable distinction.
The criteria are broken into six principles. The principles cover livable build environment, harmony with nature, resilient economy, interwoven equity, healthy community and responsible regionalism.
Goshen’s planning department recently held the first public meeting to address specific criteria officials believe are not covered in the city’s current comprehensive plan.
To organize the public meetings, Wiles took the 17 standards the staff felt the city’s previous plan was lacking and similarly grouped them for four different meetings.
“What we’ve done is gone through the 54 standards and indicated where we felt we were low and now we’re asking people, ‘Do you want to see these in the plan?’” she said.
From the meetings, planning officials hope to prioritize those areas they feel are not represented in the current plan. Through public discourse and planning staff discussions, they will try to work in the criteria residents feel are most important.
At the first meeting, held Thursday, Jan. 9, the department focused on criteria that affect quality of life in Goshen.
At the meeting, participants were asked to rate and discuss several factors within the city, such as business climate, community openness and the arts and entertainment scene.
Participants were also asked to prioritize several environmental areas the planning staff felt were lacking in the previous comprehensive plan.
Those areas included access to locally grown foods in all neighborhoods, carbon footprint-reducing policies and providing for renewable energy use.
The public meetings are not where final decisions on the plan are made. Rather, the planning department will use the feedback and opinions discussed at the meetings to help formulate the next comprehensive plan — all while trying to also work in as many of the APA’s sustainability criteria they can.
The next public meeting will focus on economic development and redevelopment. It will be at 10 a.m. Feb. 4 at the Chamber of Commerce, 232 S. Main St.
A meeting on people, neighborhoods and housing will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27. That meeting will be held at the Rieth Interpretive Center, 410 W. Plymouth Ave.
The final public meeting will then be held at 6:30 p.m. March 24. It will be held at the Goshen Public Library, 601 S. Fifth St.