New Comp Plan for Culver

For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to get Culver to consider a Comprehensive Plan update. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. It’s just good practice. Most of the time it is recommended that a town’s comprehensive plan is reviewed and updated every five years with a new one completed every ten to fifteen years. Culver’s current comp plan was completed in 2014. I really thought we should have done this in 2020 since we could have called it Culver’s 20/20 vision, but last year was, um, challenging, to say the least. I bet there would have been good Zoom participation just out of boredom though!
  2. Stellar… The two Stellar Strategic Action Plans that brought us Stellar designation used the 2014 comp plan as a jumping off point. (As they should have.) For that reason, most of the readily achievable goals and even a few aspirational goals have been met or at least advanced. No sense sitting our our laurels. What are the next things we need to achieve?
  3. Future grants will require an updated comprehensive plan. The Stellar program required a comp plan no more than five years old. Other grant opportunities may hinge on that as well. If that’s the case, a comp plan can’t be updated overnight.
  4. Our community has changed physically. We’ve added the housing at Sand Hill Farm. There are 72 new residences there since the last comp plan and many of those are new faces in Culver. The Maple Ridge housing was not here in 2014. More than a few infill lots have seen homes constructed, while we have lost the trailer park, the City Tavern building, the Evil Czech building and the Boetsma property has been partially destroyed by fire. We have annexed new property on the northwest side of town. We have accepted the East Shore Sewer Corporation into Culver’s wastewater system.
  5. Our Community leadership has changed. Ginny Munroe has stepped down from the Town Council. Her leadership in spearheading the Stellar effort was invaluable. Tammy Shaffer stepped out of town leadership after being an important part of the Town Council and Redevelopment Commission. Pete Peterson, a long time Plan Commission stalwart has retired and sadly, some community leaders like Ralph Winters have passed away… New people have stepped up to replace them and their voices need to be represented in a new comp plan.
  6. Building Commissioner Chuck DeWitt has asked the Plan Commission to start a monthly review of the Comprehensive Plan in advance of an update or new plan. The Plan Commission will take up a couple of chapters a month. As always, the Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals are seeing new challenges to the Zoning Ordinance, which is based on the goals and aspirations of the Comprehensive Plan. We have new types of development occurring, such as the RV storage facilities planned at the end of Main Street, which will involve another annexation. These things need to be addressed in the comp plan.

Some things on my agenda?

  • I was disappointed that Culver didn’t work harder to obtain our allowed 2 mile extraterritorial boundary. We were already sorely below the allowable area, but since the last comp plan, we have annexed land to the north and west and we’re about to annex land to the south. There has been no expansion of our extraterritorial boundary with this growth.
  • Since I served on the previous Comprehensive Plan Committee, I have become more in tune to housing and housing needs. The video below is an example of how we could adjust our zoning requirements to allow new and different affordable housing. Should we be a bit more progressive, consider new urbanism and other non-traditional zoning options?
  • Little was done to advance zoning changes to reflect the land use planning included in the last comp plan. We need to be more proactive.
  • More education is needed on the use of the comp plan. (Part of this is due to the change over talked about above, so there are new people involved.) The Plan Commission has done better with it’s referencing of the comp plan, but it is still not regularly referred to by the Town Council when decisions are being made regarding infrastructure. It is still too common to see projects that address today’s needs without addressing future potential. The sewer lines at Sand Hill Farm were not extended nor at the correct depth for future growth in the area. Can we do better with the annexation and infrastructure extensions we’re getting ready to do to the south? When the (now defunct) PUD was created for housing on the west side, the comp plan’s goal of extending Academy Road to S.R. 17 was ignored. (The developer should have been required to plan for it on his property and Culver could have worked on the remaining pieces needed as development progressed in the future.)

I was pleased to hear that the Plan Commission is starting the discussion. A revised comp plan will lead to a zoning ordinance update, a new strategic plan and hopefully a new list of accomplishments for Culver to start working on. Jim Dicke once told me, “Towns are growing or dying. There is no way to remain the same.” Culver is on a growth trajectory. We need to keep that going!

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