Council OKs comprehensive planPublished 7:58am Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Washington’s City Council approved an update of the city’s comprehensive plan, but not before one councilman severely criticized it for being inadequate.
The updated plan was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Doug Mercer casting the lone dissenting vote. At a previous council meeting, Mercer and other council members said the draft of the updated plan needed more work and elements.
Those elements were incorporated into the final version of the plan, said John Rodman, the city’s planning and development director. Rodman said the Planning Board approved the changes and voted unanimously to recommend the council approve the plan.
Mercer believes the plan still comes up short, especially when addressing development outside of the downtown area.
“When the gentleman (representative from Clarion Associates, the consulting firm paid $30,000 to help develop the plan) was here some time ago, I indicated I felt it was appropriate that his plan should look beyond the downtown. I would like to see a little specificity in some of the discussion. When I got this thing back in the mail last Wednesday afternoon and sat down Thursday to look at it, there is no specificity. It has lots of little, feel-good statements,” Mercer said.
If there was any doubt about how he feels about the plan, Mercer removed it.
“My comment to the manager today, and I’ll make it publicly, is this thing ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” he said.
Rodman said he respectfully disagreed with Mercer’s assessment of the plan.
Council member William Pitt asked if the plan is a “changeable document.” Rodman assured him the plan could be changed at any time.
Dot Moate, chairwoman of the Planning Board but speaking as an individual, suggested sending the plan back to the Planning Board for additional review and possible revision. The council rejected her suggestion.
“I can appreciate the board working on this. I know that sometime when you work on something it’s hard to come to a clear decision. Sometimes you have to vote on some things that you hope maybe it will be changed later, but you know what you’re voting for at that time,” said Councilman Richard Brooks
A comprehensive plan outlines what kinds of development are desired in the city and where those types of development should occur. It also addresses the issue of preserving and protecting historical and cultural buildings, sites and landmarks in the city.
City officials use the comprehensive plan when reviewing requests for land to be rezoned to see if the requested rezoning would be in compliance with the comprehensive plan.