Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 20, 2013

Ashland has eye on the future

Comprehensive plan to take 8 to 10 months to complete

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — Over the next year Ashland officials, the public and a team of consultants will map out a new comprehensive plan.

The plan is intended to guide the city through the next five to 10 years of growth and development, identifying areas of the city that are changing and issues that need attention.

Ashland’s Director of Planning and Community Development Mike Miller said the plan will examine every corner of the city and the public will have plenty of input.

“We sit down and get all the stakeholders together and look at that as a guide and a tool,” he said. “We look at land use, how the city is growing. Population: Is the city growing? Is it decreasing? What are the economic drivers in the city? What type of businesses are happening? Where is there opportunity for growth? Are neighborhoods changing from residential to commercial? A lot of things like that,” he explained.

By law, Ashland is required to have a comprehensive plan. It is supposed to be completed every five years, but city officials stressed that is a suggested guideline. Ashland’s current comprehensive plan was completed in 2004.

Miller said several areas of the city have changed significantly over time and may be looked at in the plan and evaluated for future growth. For the first time, he said, a future land use map may be included, which anticipates how a certain area or corridor can be best used in the future based on trends.

For example, Miller explained, Carter Avenue was mostly residential 25 years ago and continues to be zoned for residential use. Today, however, most of the properties along it are professional offices and businesses and each piece of property has been rezoned individually when a new business wants to locate there.

By creating a future land map, the city may decide to rezone that area for commercial instead of residential to better accommodate future growth.  Residents would still continue to live there in their homes as long as they wanted, but eventually, if they sold and someone wanted to locate a business on the property, it would already be zoned for it.

Miller said 13th Street is another area the city may look at with an eye for future changes because it is high traffic and is trending more business than residential compared to the past.

One of the most important components of the plan, Miller stressed, is public participation. “Be on the lookout for meetings in your area, things that are coming up,” said Miller. “We need everybody’s input.”

A task force comprised of elected officials, staffers and members of the public will also be created to steer the process, Miller said.

Mayor Chuck Charles said he is looking forward to the plan’s completion.

“We have to have direction,” Charles said. “In order for everyone to work for a common goal, they have to understand what that common goal is. That comprehensive plan will help to develop that for us.”

Charles said he hopes to see some “progressive” and “unique things in the plan. I want to push ourselves. We can never advance unless we push ourselves. You got to knock people out of their comfort zone,” he said.

On Thursday, city leaders approved awarding a contract to Louisville-based Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, for up to $44,000, to help city staffers complete the plan. Miller said the final cost will depend on how much and what the company does, what the city asks to be done and how much city staffers can do of the work. The estimated time frame for completion is eight to 10 months.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.