City begins public comment period on Master Plan

THREE RIVERS — Three Rivers citizens will get another chance to weigh in on the city’s Master Plan.

Three Rivers City Commissioners approved a resolution during their meeting Tuesday to open a 63-day public comment period on the full drafted plan, which has been in development for the past several months. The comment period will last until early August.

The 60-page plan, which people can view at www.wearetr2040.com, will direct citywide policy and future decisions for many different aspects of the city for the next 20 years. The draft plan covers the background, demographics, existing conditions and current land use of the city, a summary of the public engagement sessions held in January, and goes through the different objectives laid out as a result of those meetings. The plan also lays out suggestions for potentially developing a future land use plan and a future zoning plan.

The numerous objectives fall under five goals: Downtown development and city growth, housing and neighborhoods, recreation and river access, local aesthetics and beautification, and transportation and connectivity. According to the two online surveys distributed as part of the planning stage of the Master Plan, which over 300 people submitted responses to, 40 percent of respondents ranked downtown development and city growth as the number one priority for the city over the next 20 years. Housing and neighborhoods was second with 28 percent.

Paul Lippens, director of urban design and mobility for McKenna Associates, the firm working on the city’s upcoming master plan, said one of the noteworthy things that came out of the plan was the importance of the rivers to the city.

“Across all the goals and objectives, the importance of the river and parks and connections to the business district really came out,” Lippens said. “What we’ve done is found a way to integrate those priorities into both the land use plan and the transportation plan for the city.”

Lippens said the future land use map included in the draft plan is not binding if the plan is ultimately accepted, saying the Master Plan is a policy document, not a regulation document.

“It’s not changing any zoning for the city, but it makes some suggestions about how future modifications to zoning could help to implement the goals and policies in the plan,” Lippens said. “The reason it’s done in this way is so you don’t wind up changing your zoning without a thoughtful plan or basis to back it up, and the Master Plan provides that basis.”

Overall, Lippens told commissioners he is excited about how the Master Plan has turned out so far.

“We think there’s a lot of good policy in there, and that it sets a course to continue the character and development priorities the city has put in place,” Lippens said.

At the end of the public comment period, the city will take up approval of the plan. Comments can be sent to City Clerk Melissa Bliss.

In other business…

  • Commissioners approved a resolution to “promote racial justice and harmony” following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The resolution states the city will “continue to be a community of inclusion and will work to overcome the inequalities and prejudices of all types faced by people of our community,” and asks citizens to “join us and stand together in unity to overcome these problems and make our city a community of choice and welcoming for all.”
  • Commissioners approved a first reading of a user fee ordinance update, and scheduled a public hearing for June 16. Mayor Tom Lowry said there were “minimal changes” to the user fees.
  • Commissioners went into closed session for almost 40 minutes to discuss City Manager Joe Bippus’ evaluation. No action was taken on the topic.
  • City Attorney J. Patrick O’Malley, as well as some commissioners, expressed their condolences on the passing of Merritt Brown, a longtime engineering assistant, forester and city planner for the city.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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