The eight-month process for renewing the city’s comprehensive plan is nearing its end.
On March 10, the Common Council will review and possibly adopt the plan, which has been the focus of about 30 public meetings over the past several months. Public comments will be taken up to the date of that meeting in email, in writing or by public appearance at the meeting.
The plan provides a broad overview of the city’s goals and objectives for the next decade in nine areas – land use and zoning; financial investments; economic development; community character; housing; public facilities; utilities; transportation; and natural, cultural, ecological, architectural and agricultural resources.
By state law, all city land-use decisions must accord with the plan, and it must be updated every 10 years. The last plan was adopted in March 2009, and they are generally designed to look ahead 20 years, though Fitchburg’s last plan set a 50-year planning horizon.
Updating a comprehensive plan is an exhaustive public process that involves solicited feedback from residents, businesses and neighboring governments, as well as many opportunities for unsolicited comments. The previous comprehensive plan involved more than 100 meetings.
The final public hearing for citizen feedback was held Jan. 21, and the following day, city planner and zoning administrator Sonja Kruesel presented alders with a summary of the main revisions proposed.
She told alders Fitchburg has “grown from a hamlet to an energetic city” and is a “young community creating a sense of place, but it takes time for a sense of place to evolve.” She added that her goal is continued orderly growth while maintaining the city’s character with balanced neighborhoods, ecological sensitivity and technology.
Four of the alders provided Kruesel with their proposed amendments to the document, such as including provisions for affordable workforce housing, encouraging more sustainable land use, promoting funds for first-time home buyers and creating a plan for implementing 5G wireless connectivity.
Some expressed discontent at not having been able to provide their input sooner.
Alder Julia Arata-Fratta suggested that the public had also not been involved enough in the process. Kruesel responded that 30 meetings had been held since the process began in May 2019, and all resources for public outreach have been exhausted.
Alders voted in July to set a timeline that would complete the comprehensive plan before this year’s elections.