The city speaks: Long-range planning and citizen participation
By Jason Angell
Marshfield Director of Planning & Economic Development
Planning is a rational process of preparing for the future. It typically involves the gathering and analysis of data, the examination of possible future trends, the consideration of alternative scenarios, analysis of costs and benefits of those scenarios, choosing a preferred scenario, and a plan for implementation.
Effective community plans are of the community and for the community if not entirely by the community. It is through citizen participation that a body charged with developing a plan can ensure that the plan truly is for the community.
It is also through citizen participation that our local Plan Commission and other commissions, boards, and committees involve the community. Through this process those in the community who care can participate sufficiently that they believe the plan is truly representative of the community and its desires.
For most people the largest purchase or investment they will ever make in their life is when they decide to purchase a home. However, you may be surprised at how many people will do more research when it comes to buying a television or car than when it comes time to purchase a home. Fully understanding what future plans exist for the neighborhood you are looking to call home may be just as important as the number of bedrooms the house has.
You may see a large backyard for the kids to play in, but after you purchase the home you find out that a major street is planned to be extended through that yard. Or, you may find that the large wooded area near your home is planned for development in the next year.
It is critical that interested citizens take advantage of the opportunities to participate.
Take time to answer a survey. Attend at least one of many public meetings even if there is housework to do or a favorite TV show on that evening. Read about the plan in the newspaper or online at the City’s website, www.ci.marshfield.wi.us. Obtain a draft of the plan, and submit your comments to staff. Involve your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Finally, attend a public hearing. Anyone who supports a city plan should be there to be sure that it is adopted. Anyone who opposes any major part of it should be there to make one last attempt to seek an amendment or revision.
Although it is important to participate in the planning process as early as possible and usually long before the public hearing, it is also important to attend public hearings to make sure your voice is heard before the plan is adopted and becomes final.