City secures consulting firm for new comprehensive plan

·3 min read

Jul. 6—Newton is ready for a new comprehensive plan.

The guiding document often regarded as the city's "official roadmap" is almost 10 years old and is due for a re-write. At the June 21 Newton City Council meeting, council members voted in favor of hiring the Ankeny-based civil engineering company, MSA Professional Services, Inc., to draft the next comprehensive plan.

Five proposals for the comprehensive planning project were submitted to the city. In addition to MSA Professional Services, the following firms also provided proposals: Bolton & Menk, Confluence, Houseal Lavigne, McCulure and RDG Planning and Design. The city budgeted $60,000 for the project.

MSA Professional Services submitted a $56,000 project cost.

According to city documents, two consulting firms rose to the top during consideration: MSA Professional Services and Bolton & Menk.

Since part of the funding for the comprehensive plan project includes grant funds from the rural Rural Housing Readiness program, the city recommended MSA Professional Services for the firm's past experience with that program. Bolton & Menk proposed to subcontract the housing portion of the project.

MSA Professional Services said its goal is to craft a final plan and facilitate a planning process that:

—Executes a diverse level of participation that interactively engages the community, identifies critical issues, and utilizes traditional and innovative methods, including customized engagement activities.

—Analyzes demographic, economic, and physical conditions.

—Examines community land use and promotes future growth.

—Results in an all-encompassing plan that examines potential opportunities and challenges, then makes recommendations for action that will improve quality of life in Newton by addressing land use, housing, community character, mobility, recreation, infrastructure, economic resiliency and growth.

—Coordinates with the community to develop an implementation plan for immediate and long-term success, recommending an annual, citywide review process that allows the community to adapt to changing conditions while implementing the plan.

Newton Community Development Director Erin Chambers said one of the things the review committee liked about MSA's proposal was its realistic timeframe but also a "fairly quick" one at that. Chambers said the city like to adopt its new plan in 2022. The last time the city adopted its comprehensive plan was in 2012.

"Which really sets us up very well for the next 10 to 15 years," Chambers said. "Depending on how the comprehensive plan public input process goes, we'll get a good feel about how long we think this next comprehensive plan will last us."

MSA Professional Services said in its timeline it can start the project preparation as early as this month. By August and September, it would have a public participation plan and begin gathering community input. In October, the city council would be briefed on the project review and feedback.

Collecting public input and feedback is crucial for a comprehensive planning process. MSA Professional Services believes these public projects must be done with citizens' advice in mind. The consulting firm said in its proposal that engagement can and should be accomplished through a variety of sources.

Everything from interactive websites, social media communication, crowdsource mapping using a GIS system, meetings, community surveys, flyers and notices, interviews, workshops and focus groups can help the city and its consulting firm collect that necessary information.

Councilperson Craig Trotter said the comprehensive plan is an "important" project for the city, recalling the work that had gone into the previous plan.

"It was a roadmap for us and it kept us on track," Trotter said.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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