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Archive for Monday, July 6, 1992

PLAN CONSENSUS MAY BE DIFFICULT

July 6, 1992

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Horizon 2020 organizers don't expect much trouble bringing residents together to help draft the plan. Striking an agreement on elements of the plan is the challenge.

"There will be things that we cannot reach agreement on," said Graham Toft of Stratplan, an Indianapolis firm, who is helping in the consensus-building process. "We have to recognize that we live in a diverse society."

"There are limited resources, and there are great needs in the community," said Phil Hanegraaf, a senior associate for Trkla, Pettigrew, Allen and Payne, the Chicago firm guiding the process.

"There will be a trade-off," he said.

Horizon 2020 will replace Plan '95 and the Douglas County Guide Plan as the official manual for managing growth in Lawrence and the unincorporated areas of Douglas County.

It will spell out a set of policies for decision-makers on almost every aspect of life in the county, including neighborhood quality, streets, agriculture, housing and economic development.

THERE ARE four phases in the process, set to finish in September 1993. Consultants say each phase won't move forward without public consensus.

Town meetings will be held for the general public at the end of each phase to clarify and shape the plan.

At the first two town meetings, members of the public will comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the community and dream about what they want for the community in the future.

Toft said his strategy for creating consensus is breaking residents into small groups to rate community priorities and needs and brainstorm on the ideal Douglas County.

"We'll ask something like, `What are the 10 most important things,'" to the community, Toft said. "That helps people work them through. Then we tally those and then report back with the results at the meeting.

"By and large, that works. But that doesn't mean that the issue of a small group of people will be near the top of the list. There are certain lower priorities than may not been seen the first time around."

ANOTHER avenue for public input is what planners call the "advisory forum," consisting of 100 to 200 area residents appointed by the city and county commissions.

Toft said the forum would be broken down into "task groups," no more than 12 members each, and brainstorm solutions to the issues outlined by residents.

At the next community meeting, small groups of residents would deal with a need or issue and set priorities on the issues raised in the task groups. More than one group could work on one need, Toft said.

Later, members of the community will be asked to commit to helping implement the goals. If residents can't agree on some implementation plans, they could be scrapped.

"Sometimes a community can't reach agreement, so maybe they should move ahead and not do it," Toft said.

THE COMMUNITY can come back to the goals the following year when the plan will be updated and after some policies are in place."

"When I go back to some communities a year later, it's surprising," he said. "They say `Boy, there were some things we couldn't agree on, but now we've built trust in one another, we can go ahead.'"

The public's final shot at shaping the plan comes at a final review, which will take the form of a formal hearing. Consultants believe there won't be much dissension by then.

"At that point we should have closure on the majority of the issues, as far as the policies of the plan," said Hanegraaf.

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