After nearly 18 months, Planning Commission Chairman Gerald Lehman’s job is almost done. And as he presented Dayton’s revised comprehensive plan to council last week, the relief in his voice was almost palpable.
All that’s left is a public hearing before the Oct. 8 council meeting and the formal adoption of the plan by council.
Copies of the draft plan are available for public perusal in the town offices.
The 25-page document includes basic information and recommendations about growth, building and development, roads and infrastructure, among other topics.
If town residents and council report that they like what they see next month, Lehman can finally cross “Dayton Comprehensive Plan” off his to-do list.
State mandates require localities to review, but not necessarily revise, comprehensive plans every five years. Dayton’s last revision was completed in 2007, but the document was so sparing that it virtually had to be rewritten, Lehman said.
“We really tried to be specific about what could be improved and what the town could and should be looking at,” he said. “We really had two goals when we started. That was one, to be specific, and the other was to include town residents in the process.”
In early 2011, the comphrensive plan committee held three informal focus groups that involved residents, members of the zoning board, various business groups and commercial entities.
“We asked them what they wanted to see, what could be improved, what was important,” Lehman said. “Then we delegated sections to each committee member…and began to work on language, background information, goals and objectives and recommendations.”
The entire process took longer than anticipated because of Planning Commission turnover. Among other changes, former members Jeff McNeal and Jerry Critcher either won or were appointed to council seats during the plan revision.
Council also deliberated over the potential hiring of an economic development coordinator, who would have had input into the document.
Instead, in April 2011, council decided to embark on an economic development survey. The eight-month project was completed in May 2012.
“We were really waiting for that information to integrate it into the business and commerce section,” Lehman said, “and you’ll see that a lot of what we recommend were their recommendations and that council is making progress on some of those.”
The plan also spells out plenty of work for town officials.
For example, the plan recommends “closing loopholes in the town’s Landscape Standards” and “reviewing, revising and enforcing existing ordinances pursuant to residential development.”
“A lot of the recommendations were in response to what residents saw happening in town,” Lehman said. “Like the majority of small towns in this area, there is pressure to grow, but most of the residents like the small town atmosphere and don’t want to grow. There’s definitely a range of opinions on what Dayton should look like 10 years from now.”