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Public input first step in update
October 11, 2013 · Ann Gruber-Miller

What would you like to have happen in Mount Vernon over the next 10 or so years?

The city's new comprehensive plan committee will soon be seeking citizen input as part of the estimated year-long process of updating the city's 18-year-old comprehensive plan.

Committee members would like to know the community's answers to questions such these so they can propose a plan that reflects the desires of the residents: Do you want Mount Vernon to grow? How much? Do you want the city to invest in economic development/housing/ transportation/historic preservation? What types? How much?

State code requires all cities with a zoning ordinance to have it be in accordance with a comprehensive plan, which needs to be updated regularly. Planning and zoning commissions are charged with updating the plan and sending it on to city councils for adoption.

Mount Vernon's current comprehensive plan was adopted in 1995. Since then, Mount Vernon's demographics have changed, and possibly the vision and desires of the residents have changed. The city would like to find out what residents are thinking now and update the plan to reflect that. Having a current comprehensive plan also helps the city acquire outside assistance such as grants.

Mount Vernon's comprehensive plan committee was appointed by mayor Scott Peterson in early September to assist in this process. The committee will provide input and draft a new plan to send to the planning and zoning commission to vote on. Planning and zoning will then send it to the city council to vote on after holding a public hearing.

The committee decided at its first meeting last week to start the process by putting together and mailing out a community-wide survey in the next couple of months to all Mount Vernon households, asking what residents are interested in seeing happen in Mount Vernon. Each survey will include an addressed, stamped envelope for the household to return.

In order to reach as many residents as possible, the survey will also be available online on a comprehensive plan website. Updates on the process throughout the year will also be posted on the website.

The committee hopes that a large number of Mount Vernon's residents will return the survey. Recent surveys sent out to residents of Vinton and Robins, which were updating their comprehensive plans, received a 35 percent return rate and a 50 percent return rate, respectively, according to the Mount Vernon committee's consultant, Chad Sands from the East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG).

Sands has been contracted to make recommendations on Mount Vernon's plan. He will also provide the committee with background information and meeting agendas.

After Mount Vernon's survey is completed, the committee will hold several town meetings so residents can get together to brainstorm and discuss their ideas. A Saturday morning forum, a weekday evening forum, a Cornell College forum and discussions at already established meetings such as the Lions Club are envisioned in order to reach and engage as many residents as possible.

Following the community discussions, the committee will meet monthly to work on the ideas proposed. They will then draft a new comprehensive plan and hold open houses for residents to review and comment on the draft. A revised plan will be sent to the planning and zoning commission and to the city council. A public hearing will be held before the new plan is adopted.

The committee set its regular meeting time as the second Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers of City Hall. Their next meeting will be Monday, Oct. 14. The meetings are open to the public.

Agendas and minutes are being posted on the city's website ( under the top tab "Agendas and Minutes." "Comprehensive Plan Committee Agendas" and "Comprehensive Plan Committee Minutes" are at the bottom of the list found there.

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