Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 10, 2013

Comprehensive plan: Roadmap to the future

Details vague pending public release of document

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — Downtown redevelopment is among the centerpieces of Ashland’s recently completed 20-year comprehensive plan, according to officials.

The 100-plus page document nine months in the making was given initial approval by Ashland City Commissioners on Thursday. A copy of the document was not immediately made available to The Independent by press time on Thursday night.

According to officials, the plan covers a wide range of topics from residential and business development to road and other essential infrastructure. It is intended to guide the city’s future growth and development based on current trends and was formulated with a heavy dose of public input.

“I think the plan really represents who the community is as a whole, and I think it has a really strong implementation aspect to it too,” said Amy Williams, a principal with  Taylor Siefker Williams Design, the consulting firm hired in January to assist city staff in its creation.

For the first time, the comprehensive plan includes specific actions steps — about 30 items— as well as a timeline for their implementation. Both aimed at spurring action by staff, elected officials and community stakeholders, said Williams.

She noted the plan also includes guidelines for self-evaluation so leaders can “grade” themselves on their own progress.

 Williams said the plan is a “living document” that is flexible enough to adapt to future changes as well.

 Among the actions described in the plan, said Williams, is  the creation of a downtown task force to focus on efforts to create an “entertainment destination.” She described this as a “game changer” for Ashland’s future development.

Williams also suggested that the citizen task force assembled to help create the plan remain active. “Every six to 12 months that task force needs to meet. If no one ever sits down and gives themselves a grade on this, things are more likely to slip through the cracks,” she said.

Ashland Director of Planning and Community Development Mike Miller said he believes the city will move quickly to implement several key ideas including creating a Tax Incremental Financing district and a tax credit program to spur investment and new development both downtown and in other commercial areas.

Miller said he believed both could be done “within the next couple of years.”

Other priorities identified in the plan included a cleanup of the AK Steel Coke Plant to prepare it for industrial redevelopment along with the creation of a farmers market, according to Miller and Williams.

Both said the plan also suggests revisting the city’s zoning ordinances in areas where growth is already occuring to “make it easier” for redevelopment.

“I like the implementation steps that gives us a plan to go where we think we are going now,” said Miller.

Elected officials also praised it. Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs called it the “road map to the future.”

“We don’t expect it to sit on a shelf,” said Commissioner Larry Brown, noting the future city manager will be in charge of overseeing its implementation.

“Give him the book and tell him to get it done,” suggested Mayor Chuck Charles.

The city paid the Louisville-based firm $44,000 for its services. By law, Ashland is required to have a comprehensive plan and to update it every five years.

The citizen task force includes: Paul Castle, Bernard O’Nan, Larry Lake, Sudie Davis, Ann Newman, Bruce Davis, Melissa Benhke, Ronald E. Clark, Lisa Henson, Bob Hammond, Howard Harrison and Tom Cantrell.