City of Fitchburg

The update to the City of Fitchburg’s comprehensive plan is already behind the initial schedule set out, and there’s still no decision on how detailed it will be.

Alders discussed the possibilities June 25, with a mix of those wanting to get it done quickly, with limited changes, and those who want to take more time to explore new strategies and larger-scale decisions.

The comprehensive plan is a state-mandated document that outlines planned development and zoning changes up to 20 years out, and incorporates other city plans like Forward Fitchburg and last year’s Housing Plan. The plan adopted 10 years ago established a 50-year planning horizon, far longer than typical comprehensive plans.

Amendments can be made once a year to the plan, and the plan must be updated in its entirety every 10 years under state law.

Ald. Julia Arata-Fratta (Dist. 2) was concerned about setting a timeline without knowing more about how in-depth they needed to go, and she mentioned climate change and the anticipated Town of Madison annexation as major issues to discuss.

“We have to know what we are going to change first,” Arata-Fratta said.

Ald Dan Bahr (D-2) suggested the council needed to set a timeline first and then determine what can be changed within that timeline.

“We’ll never get to it if we don’t vote on a timeline,” Bahr said.

With the 2020 census coming up, Ald. Dorothy Krause (D-1) suggested waiting until that information was available in 2021 to incorporate it into the plan.

“I think we need to have a good sense of what we’re getting ourselves into and make a reasonable decision on the best guess of how much time that would take, rather than just starting at the beginning and saying, ‘We want to get it done in six months, so let’s do whatever we can in six months and call it,’” Krause said.

Public input opportunities will vary depending on the timetable that is set out, with a shorter one likely meaning the best opportunities would be at public meetings, while longer timetables could include surveys and specific meetings on the topic.

Contact Scott Girard at and follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.