By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Assistant Editor
---- — CLINTON - After a lengthy discussion that pitted redeveloping the city's urban core against westward expansion, the city of Clinton's Plan Commission settled on a vision for the city's future land use.
During its meeting Thursday, the City Plan Commission forwarded the city's 2032 comprehensive plan to the Clinton City Council for its approval with some additional low-density residential areas along Mill Creek Parkway included in the future land use map.
"We want to take a step forward by trying to rezone those areas west of the parkway and possibly a little bit on the east side of the parkway so if we get willing buyers and sellers that's not the first obstacle they run into," Commission member Tom Lonergan said.
The East Central Intergovernmental Association worked with city staff to prepare the planning document, which gives the city a legal basis for land use regulations and provides a unified vision for the community as well as the plans to reach that vision.
Nicole Turpin, a regional planning coordinator with ECIA, presented an overview of the 90-page document Thursday after commission members last month noted some shortcomings, such as the plans lack of focus on developing west of Mill Creek Parkway, which the land use map labeled agricultural.
The future land use map in the plan focuses on redeveloping the city's urban core through bolstering downtown's housing stock, maintaining infrastructure and other projects.
"We (got) all this public input and it was redevelopment, even if that's tear down what's there and put up new in the core. Every time you go out further, that core suffers," Turpin said.
The problem city staff see with developing west of Mill Creek is the lack of water and sewer and the city's inability to provide those services to the area.
"Market and city analysis are two different things and people are going to be coming in wanting to buy ground and wanting to develop it may or may not be consistent with our comprehensive plan the way it's currently drafted, but we are the ones who have to address those problems," Lonergan said.
The obvious answer to someone who wants to develop land in a way inconsistent with the city's land use plan would be "no," City Administrator Jessica Kinser told commission members. The commission can recommend a zoning and land use map change if it believes a development that doesn't match either guide should be allowed, she added.
"If that's your argument I think you're putting a sack over your head and saying 'we're not going to have any progress,'" Lonergan responded, adding that he believes the process moves to9 slow and in turn sends potential developers to other cities.
Turpin followed with a thought she suspected commission members might have found hard to stomach.
"You have your comprehensive plan with a land use map that is supposed to serve as a guide and I get what you're saying is you have people coming in, you want the development," Tuprin said. "But sometimes development that isn't consistent with how you planned isn't good development. I know that's hard. I know this community wants development. I know this community wants progress."
Repeated attempts by Turpin in favor of the redevelopment focus were met with different points of opposition.
Commission member Jim McGraw pointed to the city's inability to attract CEOs or people looking for larger lots, asserting redeveloping the urban core was not the solution.
"If I'm an executive with RAIL.ONE or anybody else coming into town and I just sold a house on the East Coast or West Coast or South or wherever for $400,000, $500,000 and I need to reinvest that money, am I going to locate in the urban area that you are trying to redevelop? No, I'm not," McGraw said.
He vehemently suggested the city take a flexible approach to requests for development in the city rather than relying on the financial-woe excuse to not add infrastructure.
Further, Commission member Sue Tugana said, with the new Clinton middle school being built in the Mill Creek area, residential development to the contiguous west seems likely to follow.
The group also amended the map to change the area where the Insurance Group is located off 18th Street from commercial to residential to prevent it from being permanently classified as commercial in case the property is ever 60 percent destroyed.
Commission members unanimously agreed to the changes, which will now move on to the council for approval. If approved, the commission will use the document as the city develops.
"This is really supposed to be your guide of what you can even consider," Kinser said. "Changing this does not change the zoning, but it gives you the authority to come back and say, 'that zoning fits with our vision for the city.'"