We are becoming a community that plans ahead, sets goals and holds itself accountable for those goals.
Our community has finally reached the point in the long two-year comprehensive planning process where we have an answer to the question: "What's in the comprehensive plan?"
You can see the draft plan at planlafayette.com, and see it all for yourself. Or you can hear the short answer - that the plan is more than 400 action items designed to improve our community and reach our shared vision.
Last month, thousands participated in the highly successful PlanLafayette Week, which involved more than a dozen events that began breaking down those 400 action items into four "Big Ideas."
Many of the events were organized by community partners and went into detail around the Big Ideas, which are: Revitalize Neighborhoods, Refine Government, Reenvision Natural Resources and Reinvent the Hub City (more on each of these later).
In the middle of this exciting but exhausting week, after a particularly interesting discussion on the future Hub City, an enthusiastic participant declared: "We should have PlanLafayette Week every year!" After the initial shock wore off, many organizers realized that the enthusiastic participant was right: we should have PlanLafayette Week every year. Because even more important than the 400+ action items in the comp plan is a bigger principle: We are becoming the sort of community that plans ahead, that sets goals and that holds itself accountable for those goals. So what better way to do this than to have a public "progress report" each year?
And so if you missed it this year, stay tuned until next spring. In the meantime, here is a short discussion of many of the higher level focus areas of PlanLafayette.
To Revitalize Neighborhoods, one of the big action items will be to establish a Redevelopment Authority. Many of our older neighborhoods are in need of attention and a solution to the problem of vacant, adjudicated, blighted properties. A redevelopment authority can do this work.
To Refine Government, we are recognizing that we can do a better job with our limited public tax dollars. When spending money on capital projects, we will start looking at what kind of return on investment taxpayers can expect as a result - projects that result in redevelopment, denser growth and mixed-use can be prioritized.
To Reenvision Natural Resources, we can acknowledge our unique topography and realize that we cannot spend our way out of drainage and flooding problems - especially with pending FEMA floodzone maps that will regard many areas of our parish as floodways. We can start looking at these areas as potentially dual-purpose, for both drainage and recreational uses. What could be a liability can be turned into an asset.
And the final "big idea" is to Reinvent the Hub City. Traditionally, Lafayette has been the hub of the region because of our geographic location. As the economy changes, we have to invest in those quality of life assets that will make us more attractive to future generations of entrepreneurs.
Improving our public schools is a big part of this. Another approach is to increase our walkability and bike-ability and recreational choices. Other cities are making these kinds of changes; we need to as well, if we are going to remain economically competitive in the future.
The Planning Commission will be presented with the comprehensive plan this spring. Please visit planlafayette.com to find out more information.
Kevin Blanchard is Lafayette Consolidated Government's first chief development officer. Blanchard, who practiced commercial and oil and gas law at Onebane Law Firm before joining local government, continues to serve as the chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Citizens Advisory Committee.