Proposal to develop city plan for Trumann presented

Friday, March 11, 2016
James Walden (right) with Garver USA presents a proposal to develop a comprehensive plan for the city at the Sims-Talbot Adult Education/Workforce Development Center. (DT Photo/Corey Clairday)

Several Trumann officials and business leaders met last week to hear a proposal to develop a comprehensive plan for the city. During the meeting, Mayor Barbara Lewallen passed around older city plan books from 1963, 1974, and 1997--which was when the last city plan was done.

James Walden, a certified planner with Garver USA in Little Rock, presented a proposal to put together an updated plan. According to Walden, an updated comprehensive plan would bring maps and zoning regulations up to date and put together a strategic vision for the future of the community.

One of the most important aspects of developing such a plan, Walden said, was getting the community engaged in the planning process. "You have to ask the community what they want," Walden said. "Sometimes you get ideas nobody thought of." A recent example of this was in Arkadelphia where Walden said the feedback they heard consistently from the community was that the city is the gateway from Texas to Hot Springs and needed to focus on tourism. "We looked at the data, and they were right. That shifted the whole plan," Walden said. Another example was in Pocahontas where Walden said the people in charge of the plan thought the community had no interest in walking trails until the community meeting happened. Interest in walking trails came up repeatedly, and without that community engagement, the steering committee would have had no idea that's what people wanted.

If the city of Trumann accepted Garver's proposal to develop a comprehensive plan for the city, Walden said they would provide four main things: training/community engagement, a planning studies report, a comprehensive plan document and map, and work on zoning regulations.

First, there would be a kickoff meeting with city staff and officials, training for the planning and zoning commission, and a steering committee would be put together to guide development of the plan. Garver would also work on getting the public engaged with the project. One of the ways they would do that is through a public workshop to identify what people feel the community needs. Walden said the workshop was not the same as a public hearing. Instead of being a place for people to air problems, he said it would be a productive meeting where people break into groups to discuss ideas for the future and then present them.

A planning studies report would define where the city wants to go. It would establish a boundary for the planning area, document existing land conditions and facilities, and prepare projections for future land use and population.

Next, the steering committee would develop a comprehensive plan, which would include strategies for dealing with the issues raised in the planning studies report. An important issue in this region that this could help with, Walden said, was dealing with vacant and dilapidated houses.

One thing Walden said having a comprehensive plan would help with is applying for grants. He said grant applications often ask if the project the city is applying for is part of their comprehensive plan. If it is, that demonstrates commitment and a clear vision of where the city wants to be, which can help sway favor of the grant committee in that city's direction.

Zoning regulations would also be updated to be in line with the comprehensive plan. This would take place after the completion of the comprehensive plan. The process of developing the plan from start to finish would take just under a year and cost the city an estimated $24,144 if the city agreed to use Garver.

Whether or not the city goes with the proposal Walden made has not yet been decided. "The important thing is, we really do need to update our plan," Mayor Lewallen said. "We need to look at zoning and look at regulations, and we need some guidance. We need to get together and decide if this is something we want to do as a city.

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