Comprehensive plan ready for final draft

COLUMBIA CITY — Whitley County’s first comprehensive plan in more than 20 years is one step closer to reality.A short-handed Whitley County Plan Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to allow the plan’s authors to create a fourth version of the document and present it to the panel in next month’s meeting for possible adoption.“We’ll prepare Draft D as quickly as possible,” said Brad Johnson of Ground Rules, Inc., the consulting firm that has created and revised the document over the past several months.The plan commission and Ground Rules, Inc. conducted several open houses with the general public and took public input on the document, making numerous changes to the plan.According to Johnson, many of the comments from citizens involved specific wording and semantics, with specifics regarding septic systems being one issue addressed.“I would like to do a quick audit to make sure we’re using the term (septic system) the right way,” said Johnson.With Plan Commissioners John Johnson, George Schrumpf and Dave Schilling absent, the panel voted 6-0 to allow Ground Rules, Inc. to incorporate the most recent changes into a fourth draft and present the plan to the commission for possible adoption at its March 16 meeting.A public hearing will also be conducted during that meeting regarding the plan.Johnson said the law requires a 10-day public notification of the hearing.“Draft D would have to be available (for review online) at the same time,” he said.Some of the proposed changes also involved soil drainage and a survey form, according to Johnson.Most of the changes in recent months, according to Whitley County Building and Planning Department Executive Director Dave Sewell, have involved semantics, grammatical and spelling changes.But public input also called for changes involving wind energy.For nearly a year, Whitley County has been developing a new comprehensive plan for land use and development.The process of developing the new Comprehensive Plan began in the spring of 2010 with opportunities for community leaders, representative groups, and the general public to provide initial input.The plan highlights specific ways to manage land use and growth, foster safe and convenient circulation, nurture environmental quality, advance economic development efforts, and enhance quality of life. The plan will also serve as a guide to local decision-makers and will be used to support and stimulate economic development and local investment in Whitley County.