HARRISONBURG — City Council will hold a public hearing on its updated comprehensive plan at its Tuesday.

The plan, which serves a blueprint for growth in the city, is required by state law and was last updated in May 2011.

Planning Commission member Deb Fitzgerald said the plan is about getting residents’ input on what important matters need to be focused on in the city.

The plan is the bridge between city staff and residents in moving the city into a positive direction financially, economically and socially, she said.

“We’ve made this concrete link between the capital improvement plan and the comprehensive plan so that every single purchase the city makes in the future ties back to an objective in the comprehensive plan,” Fitzgerald said. “It makes us stick to what we want to do.”

Environmental issues, transportation, water and waste facilities, and land use are among the many issues updated in the plan. Changes were made to the definition of low, medium, and high density use and mixed-use development.

Low density mixed residential areas would allow around seven units per acre instead of six, and medium density mixed residential would allow about 20 dwelling units per acre instead of up to 12.

In an email to city planner Thang Dang, city residents Julian Pena and Johann Vargas said there is too much land being designated as low density residential near James Madison University.

“We believe that the single-family homes near the campus should be allowed to be rented out to students in order to keep the student population near campus and not in our neighborhoods,” Pena said in the email.

Pena said the Greenbriar Drive neighborhood is an example of property surrounded by JMU student-leased property.

City resident Duncan Rutherford also emailed the city in October to say that areas near JMU campus should be designated as medium to high density residential to keep the student population near campus.

“I believe these areas should be designated in the Comprehensive Plan as something which would allow for a zoning other than R-1/Low Density designation,” the email said.

Outside of the downtown area, mixed-use development would not exceed 24 dwelling units per acre instead of the 15 allowed in the 2011 plan.

The updated plan also includes plans to increase the amount of single-family and detached and duplex housing.

Councilman Chris Jones, who was just re-elected for his second consecutive term, said in a council candidate forum in October that more people are looking to build smaller units in the city because “families just aren’t as big anymore.”

The plan also identifies opportunities for alternative modes of transportation, such as walking and bicycling, to reduce traffic on city streets. Increasing the tree canopy and implementing strategies to reduce waste, such as recycling, are also included in the proposed plan.

The updated plan has been in the works for nearly two years, and all city departments and residents have been involved in the process, Fitzgerald said.

Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 409 S. Main St.

Contact Laine Griffin at 574-6286 or lgriffin@dnronline.com

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