Gering council gets first look at updated comprehensive plan

Members of the Gering City Council took a first look at the city's comprehensive plan that's been in the works for about 18 months. A public hearing is scheduled for comment before the council decides whether to approve the new plan.

Gering’s comprehensive plan, last updated in 1995, is undergoing a complete facelift. Council members got their first look at a draft of the proposal at their Monday meeting.

Titled the name Plan Gering, the document has been in development for the past 18 months with help from the Cheyenne-based community planning firm of Ayers Associates.

Matt Ashby with Ayers Associates told council members a comprehensive plan is essential for a city to effectively manage its resources, from facilities to personnel, from infrastructure to zoning.

Ashby said the plan goes beyond the city itself because others in the community make investments based on the plan. The plan should provide guidance and encouragement for people that want to help Gering grow.

“What we kept hearing is what we called, the ‘Pioneers Welcome’ that goes back to the community’s heritage,” Ashby told council members. “That also translates forward into the entrepreneurial spirit and ties everything together.”

State statute also requires a city to have a comprehensive plan in place before developing zoning regulations.

“The comprehensive plan will give you guidance for things to consider when you’re deciding on zoning changes,” Ashby said. “The zoning code then provides the specific rules for how that vision is implemented.”

During the research process, a major concern that kept surfacing from the community was they didn’t want a standard land use map in which boundaries start to function like a zoning map with what property owners can or can’t do in a specific area.

So the organizers of plan took a different approach by developing 11 different character areas that are similar, giving the city more flexibility when determining how different land uses can work together. Ashby said it was intended to provide a good business environment while remaining business friendly.

Over the past 18 months, Plan Gering has undergone multiple public hearings, work sessions, council meetings, online comments and a community survey.

Ashby said it was through those meetings they were able to consolidate the plan into essential sections.

Those sections include a look at how the plan came about, followed by what Gering is like today so a foundation for future decisions can be made.

The plan also casts an outlook for tomorrow, which outlines community values, principles, policies and a vision for the future.

The plan’s main sections then go into greater detail with suggestions for land use, welcoming new business, transportation, parks and several other areas. The plan wraps with a section on how to translate the plan into action.

“The plan is a guiding document, a trusted friend so to speak,” Ashby said. “It’s not intended to make any decisions for the council, the planning commission or any other official body.”

After Ashby’s presentation, council members addressed concerns the plan would be voted on before the public has a chance to inspect it. Members agreed to have a public hearing before the Planning Commission for further discussion before the council takes a vote.

The public is encouraged to view the plan online at plangering.org, where comments will also be accepted.

“It’s important for us to have a clear vision going forward for the next several decades,” Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman said. “The plan needs to be as user friendly as possible, so we encourage public feedback.”

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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