Wednesday, July 23, 2008


It should be obvious to the citizens when their community is working on a master plan. The newspaper and radio should be announcing public meetings and publicizing a call for citizens to work on focus and advisory groups.

Consultants should not make up master plans and then put them out to the public. The public should be involved from the very beginning. That said, the public has the option to go to the meetings and be informed- or not. When a plan commission utilizes every reasonable means to notify the public and be accessible, we have to accept the fact that not everyone cares or is interested in becoming part of the public process.

The second way to safeguard the public interest is to choose people for focus and advisory groups that reflect a diverse range of backgrounds, interests, and geographic representation. Hopefully, that will be a sample of the broader scope of the county’s citizens and their interests. Ideally, a master plan should be made by the people in the community, and revised and updated by them on a regular five-year basis.

Our county master plan is already in force. However, the future land use map amendment to that plan has been tabled since November 2007. Included in that amendment are updated current land use maps that will be useful and necessary to the Plan Commission and development interests when economic conditions improve.

At the heart of the map approval issue for two of the commissioners is the development of land in the NW Quadrant of the county. The proposed future land use map does not put a large industrial site there. There are several reasons for this. The most crucial for most of the advisory board and the plan commission is that over 500 people in that Agricultural area did not want it there.

Jim and Lisa Segedy (in their upcoming article in the Plan Commissioners Journal) “This Plan’s for You” state that when working in towns around Atlanta they kept hearing, “We don’t want to be like Atlanta.” Many people in Dearborn County have similar feelings about their neighboring urban areas, when they say, “We don’t want to be like Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky.” Yet, we keep hiring people from those areas to make us more like them.

The commissioners have even put non- residents on boards recently- boards that directly influence development in our county. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that new residents can bring new blood and new ideas that are good for our community. But they should have a stake in the outcome- and not just a paycheck that they deposit to their account back home in Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky.

Land use decisions become developer driven, when we fail to develop our own plans and priorities. The master plan determined how and where we as a county want to grow. Two of the commissioners don’t want to accept that plan’s amendment leading some people to think that these commissioners are development or developer driven.

The question commissioners need to be asking the public is, “Why do you choose to live here?” It might surprise them to hear the answers. I doubt that anyone will say he or she moved here to be near an industrial park or rampant development. Citizens won’t say they want bigger or more crowded schools either.

Our master plan committees used the term “pace and place” as a theme for balancing growth. We need to PLACE development in appropriate locations and do it at an reasonable PACE so that the community can absorb the infrastructure improvement costs.

Jim and Lisa Segedy summed it up best in “This Plan’s for You” when they stated that we “must realize that 1) growth is not always possible, 2) growth is not always avoidable, 3) growth is not always good, and 4) balanced growth is the only way that your community can sustain itself.”

It is time for our commissioners to accept the future land use map amendment. We need to make progress to the next revisions in five years, reflecting upon our unique needs and resources.

Christine Brauer Mueller served on the advisory board to the county master plan and is a citizen editor for Planning Commissioner’s Journal. Quoted with permission from PCJ and the Segedys. Dr.Jim Segedy, formerly of Ball State, is Director of Community Planning for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy is the Managing Partner and Senior Planner for The Community Partnership.

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