Weigh in on Johnson County's comprehensive plan

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You might have heard about “comprehensive planning” and wondered what it is and why it is useful. Many cities in Iowa such as Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, as well as counties such as Polk and Linn Counties, have comprehensive plans.

Johnson County has begun the process to create its first-ever comprehensive plan — and we encourage all Johnson County residents to get involved.

A comprehensive plan for a jurisdiction does several important things. For Johnson County, it will articulate how county residents expect development to occur in the county’s unincorporated areas, including balancing competing interests of development and preservation. The plan also will document county residents’ interests and desires; allow for a predicable future; and provide a firm basis for the policies, ordinances, and decisions made by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. In fact, the state requires development ordinances be based on an adopted comprehensive plan.

Why does Johnson County need a comprehensive plan?

In 1998, Johnson County adopted a land use plan. That plan was updated in 2008. However, it still pertained primarily to land use. The new comprehensive plan, JoCo 2.0 — Sustaining Success Through 2028, will be much more wide-ranging. It will include topics ranging from local foods to economic development to land use, while retaining its focus on the unincorporated areas — the areas of Johnson County not within a city’s boundaries.

Creating a comprehensive plan is especially important for Johnson County because it has transformed in the last 10 years, and continues to change. Smack-dab in the middle of the Creative Corridor, Johnson County is the second-fastest growing county in Iowa. The population growth has been 18 percent compared to 10 percent nationally and 4 percent statewide (according to U.S. Census data). As cities grow, development pressures in unincorporated areas increase.

Johnson County is challenged to preserve sensitive areas and agricultural traditions while planning for appropriate, sustainable growth in the unincorporated areas.

Why and how can you get involved?

Comprehensive planning issues affect you personally. For example, good land use planning positively affects your daily commute, air and water quality, and the value of many families’ biggest asset — their home. Thoughtful economic development in the rural areas can provide jobs, ensure recreation opportunities, and further enhance the quality of life in Johnson County.

Come help us set a vision, define goals, and sustain success in Johnson County for the next decade and beyond. We need the participation of Johnson County residents.

Interested in economic development and local foods? In preserving sensitive areas and agricultural land? In sustainable development? Come to a meeting! The input sessions take place in five different geographical areas of Johnson County in February and early March; however, please attend any session that is convenient for you.

This is just the beginning of a one-year process; there will be other public gatherings, including sessions to discuss the draft plan. Visit online at www.JoCoPlan.com to stay informed and participate in future input opportunities. The Johnson County Board of Supervisors encourages you to participate and values your ideas.

Public Input Sessions: Johnson County Comprehensive Plan

Feb. 7: 6-8 p.m., Lone Tree Community Center, 203½ N Devoe Street in Lone Tree

Feb. 16: 6-8 p.m., Kent Park Education Center, 2048 Hwy 6 NW in Oxford

Feb. 22: 6-8 p.m., Solon High School (Media Room), 600 West Fifth Street in Solon

Feb. 28: 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Stringtown Produce Barn, 2250 540th Street SW in Kalona (The building is located just north of Stringtown Grocery.)

March 6: 6-8 p.m., Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A, 123 S Linn Street in Iowa City

• Josh Busard is director of Johnson County Planning, Development and Sustainability. He has served the people of Johnson County since 2007 and is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners. Comments: (319) 356-6083; jocoplan.com

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