by Nathan Boddy
The City of Hamilton officially began work on a new Comprehensive Plan on Tuesday, June 21st. A steering committee comprised of 11 members, city staff and consultants from the firm, Logan Simpson, met to discuss the process of the new plan, which is expected to take approximately one year to complete. The kick-off meeting laid the foundation for the plan’s development, and took the first small steps toward defining what the City of Hamilton could be like in the year 2040.
A comprehensive plan is a guiding document that projects future conditions within a city, and aims to encourage those outcomes that citizens and policy makers determine to be desirable. While essentially a plan of action, a comprehensive plan also takes stock of a community’s values, strongpoints and opportunities. When finalized and adopted, a comprehensive plan can serve as a valuable tool for decision makers and community leaders well into the future.
The City of Hamilton has previously used a ‘Growth Policy,’ but according to City Planner Matthew Rohrbach, the term ‘Comprehensive Plan’ is a better fit. “Most places use (the term) Comprehensive Plan because, I think the shift is looking more comprehensively, long range as opposed to just having a short-term lens on growth policy. This document is more than just addressing growth.”
The steering committee members took turns at Tuesday’s meeting, discussing their thoughts on what makes Hamilton a desirable location, as well as their concerns. One recurring theme of the evening was an uncertain future, partially exacerbated by a large influx of people following the Covid-19 pandemic. Victoria Clark expressed that concern by saying, “The problem with growth is that you can be a victim of your own success. We’ve got to make sure we don’t love it to death.”
Other concerns of many within the steering committee were the lack of housing within Hamilton, and the pressing need to maintain the city’s character. Both issues were neatly summarized by Jim Morton, who asked the committee to consider what happens to communities when many of its youth leave after graduation. “If they don’t stay, and we just have older people moving in, we really become an unhealthy community. That’s what happening in Montana. The young people leave, and when we have just older people returning or moving in, we have an imbalance.”
For the Comprehensive Plan to be considered a success, it will require thorough input from community members. For this reason, the City of Hamilton will be using a variety of methods to hear from its citizens. An outreach plan has been developed which will make use of social media, printed materials, and stakeholder interviews. Additionally, a website has been developed specifically to aid in the development of the new plan, and can be found at: www.envisionhamilton.net. Visitors to that website are encouraged to engage in the process through sharing of thoughts, photos and completion of a questionnaire.
Although the Comprehensive Plan is still in its ‘foundational’ stage, community members can expect to see information about the plan at farmers markets, on the City’s Facebook page, as well as future open houses to discuss the plan’s progress.