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Rushford continues strategy talks

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Oct 26th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

Staff and the 5-man council continue to work diligently to hammer out the goals and ideas of the city’s strategic plan. This week, talk turned to both Planning and Zoning, as well as the Tree Board.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will be updating their comprehensive plan, at a pace of a chapter or so per month. Written in 2008, City Administrator Steve Sarvi calls the current plan “a good document,” but suggested that it and related ordinances be looked at. “It reflects the values and concerns of the community, but there are new concerns that were not thought of then,” he notes. “Frac mining, our dwindling supply of commercial properties, and the downtown all need to be looked at.”

Regarding downtown, the city wants to ensure that the proper zoning is in place to take advantage of any potential redevelopment. “The planning commission is looking at land use, but we want the document to support development through the ordinances,” added Sarvi.

Councilor Vern Bunke raised the question of opportunity for further housing and questioned a transportation source. Rural transportation for those commuting to larger cities may seem an option, but Sarvi indicated that it is tough to secure due to federal funding. “It just keeps coming up,” said Bunke. “It’s not just Rushford, but every little town that’s having people sucked out of it to fuel the workforce in the bigger cities.”

A thorough housing study was conducted in 2008, but the city may need to look again at housing market needs. Sarvi responded that there were no glaring holes in the housing available, but that the city should always be prepared for making the case for changes. One particular change is housing in which homeowners can be comfortable and safe in for all ages. “There are better homes since the flood, but they’re not necessarily set up for people aging in them,” noted Sarvi. “It’s my perspective that we should set the conditions so we’re not behind the 8 ball, but thinking ahead and set the possibilities.”

Cooperation with the City of Rushford Village is also a priority for future planning. There are certainly opportunities for the two entities to work together, including joint planning. “The main issue is that they don’t have comprehensive plan,” cautioned Sarvi. “We need to wait until they do and look for opportunities for linear structures that we could jointly plan for. We need to jointly plan for zoning in village areas right around Rushford and Peterson. Right now there are no friction points, but we need to be monitoring and be a part of the discussion.”

The Tree Board has been something of a thorn in the side of the city as they’ve struggled to maintain enough interested board members. There has been recent discussion of combining the board’s responsibilities to include parks, trails, and more with its current tasks of maintaining the city’s Tree City designation, tree inventory, and tree maintenance. Now, the city is also considering changing it from a board to a committee. “A board is autonomous to city,” noted Sarvi. “It has its own authority. A committee would answer to city.”

City Clerk Kathy Zacher suggested that perhaps a Park and Tree Committee could be a sub-committee of the Planning and Zoning Commission with one person serve as a liaison. Sarvi agreed that it may generate more interest in than simply a Tree Board, but he did caution about putting too much on the back of the commission. Another option would be putting the Tree Board under the umbrella of the Trails and Tourism group, which already serves as a clearinghouse of sorts for other recreational development. For now, the city will examine all of the options.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, November 12, at 6:30pm, at city Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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