With a consultant officially on line to assist in the development of Horizon 2020, the long-range planning guide for Lawrence and Douglas County is firmly pointed on the fast track toward completion, says Price Banks, city-county planning director.
"This year, this is when it gets exciting," Banks said of the Horizon 2020 process, whose roots date at least two years to 1990 when the Lawrence-Douglas County planning office began lobbying for funding to begin work on a document to replace the city's comprehensive planning guide, Plan '95.
IF ALL goes as planned, Banks said, 1992 will be a year of great strides for Horizon 2020, with the plan being completed in 1993.
Last month, the Lawrence City Commission approved a contract with Chicago-based consultants Trkla, Pettigrew, Allen and Payne, to act as consultants in guiding the community as it puts together the plan.
Horizon 2020 will replace Plan '95 and the Douglas County Planning Guide as the official manual for managing growth, development and conservation in Douglas County through the year 2020.
The plan will address such concerns as housing, transportation, neighborhood quality, environmental features, historic buildings, economic trends, and the relationship between the community and Kansas University.
THE IMPORTANCE of Horizon 2020 on the future of the community is underscored by the public's reliance on Plan '95 in so many planning and zoning decisions today, Banks said.
"Maybe Plan '95 could have been better written or some policies done differently, but . . . I've never been any place where people drag out a comprehensive plan at every meeting like they do in Lawrence," he said.
Banks said the key for the consultants will be to get the Horizon 2020 process back into the public arena and to work toward public consensus. To date, with the exception of a public meeting outlining the three-year Horizon 2020 process and the hiring of the consultant, there's been little opportunity for public input.
"I hate to use the term, but what the planning department has been doing is `grunt work,'" Banks said. "We've been creating base maps, digging up past studies, compiling reams of information that will go to the consultants.
"It's difficult to get the public involved in base-mapping and compiling past studies," Banks said. "It's not an area where you're making decisions about the future, but it's something that's got to be done to help you make decisions about the future."
THE COMPILED data soon will be made available to the consultants and to the public, and Banks said, "Once we publish these studies, we expect to start getting public feedback."
Trkla, Pettigrew, in conjunction with the planning commission, will begin a series of community outreach programs to seek input for the plan. The strategy includes interviewing members of local neighborhood associations, service groups and key community leaders to get suggestions for the plan. In addition, the consultants plan a community survey to also solicit suggestions.
Another task that is slated for later this year, probably in the fall, is a series of "visioning exercises" throughout the community.
"This is where you ask any number of people what they see in their community today and how they'd like to envision their community in the future," banks said. "It's a great exercise. You find out what the expectations for the community really are."
Once all of the suggestions are in, Trkla, Pettigrew will sort and synthesize the information into a recommendation for Horizon 2020. The recommendation will go to the planning commission, which will hold a series of town meetings in which the plan is shaped, reshaped and crafted into a final form.
ONCE THE Horizon 2020 plan passes the muster of the planning commission, it goes onto the city and county commissions for possible fine-tuning and then final approval.
As Banks' timetable now stands, adoption of the plan should come sometime in 1993. All along the way, though, the involvement of the public will be a top priority.
Banks continues to stand by a statement he made in 1990 about Horizon 2020: If some individual or group wants the opportunity to participate in drafting the plan but does not, the blame shouldn't be placed on public officials because opportunities for public participation will be plentiful.
"The planning commission is going to make every effort to get people involved," Banks said. "Ideally, this plan is going to be written by a committee of 90,000 Douglas County residents."