AUBREY — City officials are in the first stages of creating a plan they will use to improve the city and manage growth for several years into the future.
The city doesn’t have a comprehensive plan, which many cities use as a way to establish long-term goals, map growth and identify probable challenges.
Chantel Kirkland, city planner, said the comprehensive plan is necessary to ensure a city develops effectively, and officials hope to have a plan developed by the end of the year.
“We’ve never had [a comprehensive plan] but it is absolutely critical that we have one,” she said. “The future of the city rests on it.”
Kirkland started working for the city in late 2012 and said she’s been surprised by how much the economy has recovered in the last few months.
“Things are happening a lot faster than what I thought would happen. For a while, I struggled to be optimistic about it because I was laid off a while back because of the sleepy economy,” she said. “We have major residential developments looking to develop and that’s something you didn’t see a few years ago.”
Kirkland said the residential communities planned for Aubrey and the steady commercial growth have spurred officials to take action.
City officials hired a consultant to develop a comprehensive plan. However, city leaders felt the consultant excluded the City Council from the process of outlining goals for the city.
Officials decided to part ways with the consultant and started from scratch, Kirkland said.
“I have very high standards and what the consultant laid out wasn’t what we wanted,” she said. “What makes me valuable is I know how to develop a plan because I used to be a consultant and did exactly what we’re trying to do.”
City officials will look at current zoning, infrastructure and traffic patterns to determine future needs. Kirkland said there may be several changes in how the city is zoned.
“We need to be smart about our plans,” she said. “If we invest in something, we need to make sure we follow through. It takes more than just putting up money to make a city grow. We need developers to know what we have to offer.”
This month, officials are expected to consider adopting the goals and objectives portion of the comprehensive plan.
Kirkland said the goals and objectives are the outlines for development.
“They’re the difference between us saying that we want to be a big retail destination or if we want to be a bedroom community,” she said.
According to officials from the American Institute of Architects, which is a national organization of architects and city planning experts, it’s not uncommon for small cities to lack a comprehensive plan.
“I wouldn’t say it’s common for small rural cities to have a vision, but the most successful ones often do,” said preservation architect Todd Scott.
Developing the comprehensive plan is only the latest step the city has taken in recent months regarding city planning.
In January, the city also presented a revitalization plan for molding the main corridors into the city along U.S. Highway 377 and Spring Hill Road.
The plan calls for the target area to be developed into a residential and commercial hub.
The city targeted the area for development several years, but officials lacked an outline of actions to take.
“Growth was occurring in that area without the plan, but it’s hard to manage a project without one,” Kirkland said.
The plan calls for the city to invest in improvements to attract more housing, commercial and job development on several acres.
Kirkland said the plan will remain fluid so city officials can make changes if needed in the future.
“Some of these items won’t get addressed any time soon,” she said. “We are trying to think long term and we’ll revisit each one once it’s the right time to address it.”
Mayor Gary Hammett said the plan is designed to help the community, so residents should attend meetings and give input.
So far, the city has received little public input, but Kirkland said that’s common during the beginning stages of a project.
She said that if the city is aggressive with developing the corridor, it could be completed within 10 years.
“There are many variables, but if things keep going the way they’re going, it can get done,” she said.
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.