Video – What is a Comprehensive Plan

Watch this short video to learn what a Comprehensive Plan is and about the upcoming public engagement opportunities so that you can help shape the future of Gillette!

The following is a visual summary of the results of the Business Owner survey.

Ideally, implementation of the Comprehensive Plan is a community-wide effort. Cities never have enough in the way of resources – there is always a shortage of staff, time, budgets, supplies, and more. The clearest path to success in implementation includes welcoming of locals – groups, organizations, volunteers, officials, and community partners – to join forces with city government. There is truth to the statement that, “together we accomplish more”.

For example, every community has small improvements in neighborhoods that can be made. These small improvements tend to be overlooked by city officials, but locals understand these small improvements can yield big results. Local service organizations, youth organizations, and city governments can collaborate to accomplish these small improvements with modest funding and sweat equity. Likewise, local partners can join forces to leverage and maximize grant funding for the community, volunteer effort can help fill the staffing gap when it comes to event planning, or small coalitions can provide the type of non-monetary economic development – think services for startups – that truly helps support a climate of entrepreneurship.

Implementation discussions work best when they are conducted in a highly-visible setting where residents can see their local leadership making progress on plan execution. Some of the more frequent criticisms from residents often include not knowing why decisions are being made, and not being able to see progress firsthand. Having quarterly or biannual conversations that celebrate and openly share progress while welcoming interested parties into the dialogue helps address these criticisms. When there are delays, sharing those challenges also helps better educate locals about the impediments their leaders often face.

For a comprehensive plan to truly guide a city into the future, it must be consulted frequently and be present in proceedings where decisions are made. By checking off actions and strategies as they are finished, updating those on which progress has been charted, and identifying new steps for action in each subsequent period, the plan continues to act as a tool for motivation and organization.

The Comprehensive Plan plays a critical role in decisions made for all communities. It is important that, as citizens are asked to participate in the process, they are given information about the way the tool they are asked to provide input on will be utilized. Below is a brief explanation of the various ways that will happen.

  • First, the future land use map component is a graphical depiction that provides direction about the type and location of future development. By having a unified and organized approach, a community can continue a consistent path forward despite changes that may occur over time in staffing and leadership, ensuring the desires of the community are maintained. That said, amendments to the future land use map can be considered and adopted over time to meet the needs of a changing community.
  • Second, the values, principles, and vision summarized in the Comprehensive Plan are intended to inform all decisions made by the community – budget, policy, regulations, priorities, and programs. The Plan should be at the center of every discussion to provide context and guidance. Citizens and leaders alike work best when they work collaboratively to ask the important questions, such as: does this decision we are considering align with the adopted values, principles, and vision? Is there another approach that is more in keeping with what the plan we’ve adopted?
  • Third, the implementation component of the Comprehensive Plan – that is, the component that outlines the actions that are necessary to execute and achieve the identified goals – is designed to form the tasks and responsibilities that the City staff, the community as a whole, and subgroups of the community are charged with carrying out. The implementation component is an accountability document that clearly states what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it needs to be accomplished. This is, in short, the work plan for the next ten years. However, a plan shouldn’t be adopted and untouched for ten years. It should be updated annually and progress reported to the community and its decision-makers on a regular basis.

After an understanding of how critical the Comprehensive Plan is and should be used is established, it should be clear why community input is so important. That input can be provided in a number of ways as outlined on the project website. We challenge you to spread the word to your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family so the input is as complete as possible. Change and improvement cannot happen without engagement.

The following is a visual summary of the results of the first community survey.

Cities are living organisms that are always changing and growing in some way. Whether we are talking about physical growth, economic growth, or societal growth, having a plan is critical to guide that growth appropriately. Here are some examples of what we mean:

  • Physical growth – the Comprehensive Plan helps provide a road map for “what goes where” when it comes to transportation, land use, and open space.
  • Economic growth – the Comprehensive Plan aids in setting economic development policies (like incentives or training) and ensures that this type of growth aligns with what the needs of businesses and residents are.
  • Societal growth – the Comprehensive Plan advances societal growth by ensuring that there is a defined role for everyone in the community, giving guidance for decision making, and provides a transparent approach to accountability.

Over time, members of the city staff, elected officials, and the citizen group itself changes. A comprehensive plan provides continuity across all of those changes. It also creates a way for cities to be much more proactive.

Resources are also best utilized when a plan is in place. One of the most frequent issues in communities of all sizes is a lack of alignment between all of the different groups and organizations working to better that community. We have all heard the phrase, “doing more with less.” We have all been in the position of trying to do more with less. In order to truly do more, this alignment is necessary. A comprehensive plan provides that alignment at a community-wide level and can leverage existing resources to accomplish much more. A positive side effect is that it often helps to improve communication and support.

Transparency and accountability are often two areas in which citizens tend to express a need for improvement within any city. A comprehensive plan is an important tool in accomplishing a higher level of transparency, by clearly stating and making available to the public the goals and the strategies that will be enacted to reach those goals. Furthermore, it is an accountability document intended to provide a way for the administration to measure their levels of effectiveness and to make the organization accountable to meeting community needs.

Trip #1 for the Gillette Comprehensive Plan took place October 2nd and 3rd, 2023. This trip was filled with different activities that laid the foundation for this ongoing community project. One of the first things to take place was the Verdunity team sitting down with staff members from various City departments. Interviewing the staff was imperative as it planted the seed for a relationship with staff members who will also be important sounding boards for the upcoming plan. During these interviews, the consultant team was able to obtain information on areas and processes within the City of Gillette that are operating smoothly, areas of improvement and feedback they receive from the community of Gillette.

The first day continued with Verdunity taking a self-guided tour of the City of Gillette based on staff’s recommendations that acquainted the team with some of the city’s most popular places. In the early evening, the consultants held the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) orientation meeting. The CPAC is an appointed committee that represents the community, encourages public participation at every available opportunity, and champions the planning project. The meeting consisted of introductions between the Verdunity team and the CPAC members, reviewing expectations of duties and conduct of the committee throughout this plan process, and answering any questions the committee had.

After this introduction meeting, the Verdunity team and Gillette planning staff made their way to the Campbell County Recreation Center, where the first Community Kick-Off event was hosted. The Community Kick-Off event was an informal, come-and-go, activity-focused engagement open house that allowed residents to provide a wide array of input. The event consisted of four activity stations. The first activity was an informational station that showcased the city limits of Gillette and the timeline for the planning process. It explained what a comprehensive plan is, and explained and promoted the Vibrant Community SurveyTr to gather community input through November 15th. The second activity station asked attendees to identify different assets – physical, economic, community and identity – that Gillette has today. The third activity station asked for input about local spending. Participants divided play money into six different categories based on how they felt it should be spent. The final and fourth activity station asked participants to select their top three priorities for principles to be used by officials in making decisions. On the back of each card, they were given opportunities to explain why those principles were most important and how they should be applied.

The morning of the second day began with part two of the staff interviews. It was followed by a second, midday second Community Kick-Off event. The event was hosted at the George Amos Memorial Building in downtown Gillette. The event consisted of the same four activity stations, but was held for people who were in a different geographic part of the city, and who had more midday availability than evenings. The day ended with a City Council meet and greet. This event took place at City Hall prior to the City Council meeting. During this meeting, introductions were made between the Verdunity team and City Council members and orientation and next steps of the project were provided.

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