PLANNING: South Whitley mulls a comprehensive plan

SOUTH WHITLEY — South Whitley is planning on making a plan.What started as rumblings by several residents earlier in the summer is shaping up to become what some hope is a road map to making the Southwestern Whitley County town a true success story.“This summer I met with leaders from the town of South Whitley in my capacity as the community development person from the EDC (Whitley County Economic Development Corporation,” said Lori Shipman, one of the county’s foremost experts on grant writing and economic development.“They were putting together an action plan, and were kind of like “let’s brainstorm on what needs to be tackled,’” Shipman said.The ultimate goal — a comprehensive plan for the town of South Whitley.According to Shipman and Dave Sewell of the Columbia City/Whitley County Joint Planning and Building Department, among those spearheading the efforts are Town Council President Tony Starkey and Mike Krause of the South Whitley Plan Commission.Starkey was unavailable for comment Friday.Krause addressed the town’s plan commission July 23, raising issues on everything from the lack of a grocery in the town to ways of improving the town’s signage.Krause told the commission that South Whitley “has a leakage of retail establishments.”In the past year, South Whitley lost the services of Heyerly’s Meat Market, which closed, and the Kent Theater, which succumbed to fire.Krause told the plan commission that South Whitley would have to tackle its future by marketing the town like Branson, Mo. For Branson, the key to success came in the form of theaters and entertainment.“We basically have to reinvent South Whitley’s image, so everyone who goes through South Whitley sees that image,” Krause said, according to the plan commission’s minutes.Shipman said town leaders will work with experts in community development around the county and that assistance in the form of grants from the state are possible. “I think there is some interest there from the leadership of the town,” Shipman said.“They as a town are really on par with other towns in the county like Churubusco and even Larwill in saying ‘let’s get a plan together.’“They have a lot of energy in South Whitley.”Sewell said the town is headed in the right direction.“We’ve been discussing this over the past several months,” Sewell said.“From the proverbial necessity of revitalizing the downtown, this has led to the discussion of a comprehensive plan.”