Erin Bowen

The 2008 Comprehensive Plan Update continues to progress, yet is in need of volunteers to facilitate public forums that will be held in November.

Last updated in 1998, the Comprehensive Plan will examine where the city needs to improve, grow or remain the same, according to Vice Mayor Prue Dana.

“We need to consider whether we are where we want to be or if we want to be at a different place,” Dana said.

The November public forums will give people a way of voicing their opinions, Dana said, about areas such as housing, transportation, economic development, parks and recreational facilities.

“We want to make sure nobody can say they didn’t know what was going on,” Dana said.

Following the official kickoff meeting Sept. 26, City Planner Kathy Dale said a 19-member steering committee was formed to work with ACP Visioning & Planning, a planning firm from Columbus, Ohio.

The 19 members represent as many entities as possible, Dana said. Representatives hail from the city of Oxford, the Family Resource Center, the planning commission, the historic and architectural preservation commission and the Butler County Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Former Oxford Mayor Betty Quantz, a candidate in the upcoming city council race, is a member of the steering committee. Quantz, who chaired the last Comprehensive Plan update in 1998, said she is delighted to be re-nominated to assist the city during this process.

“The steering committee has only met once so far,” Quantz said. “In our first meeting, we listened to the ACP consultant, discussed the upcoming process and brainstormed about ideas.”

Dale said the two groups are working together to prepare the updated document. Currently, ACP is in the process of collecting background data on the city in areas such as population and land consumption, according to Dale.

The main focus of the Comprehensive Plan will be the series of public forums in November. According to Dale, the first round of forums will occur Nov. 12 and 14. Dale said volunteer facilitators would moderate these forums.

Dana said the city is aiming for around 30 to 40 facilitators. To date, Dana said approximately 20 have volunteered.

“The facilitators need to know a lot about the city,” Dana said. “They will be trained to learn to get opinions out of people.”

Kate Currie, also a candidate for city council, said is slated to be a facilitator. Currie said she believes the city will seriously consider any public input.

According to Dale, the public forums and gaining public insight are part of the first big push of the update process.

“We intend for the forums to be a very inclusive process,” Dale said. “We would like to attract people from all geographic and demographic backgrounds. Students, faculty and citizens are all welcome.”

Quantz said the public forums are of primary importance.

“Public input is the backbone for what the community wants the Comprehensive Plan to be like,” Quantz said. “Last time, more than 600 citizens participated. It’s a great opportunity to be heard.”

With the dates of the public forum falling closely behind Election Day, Dale expressed concern over the timing.

“I am concerned that the Comprehensive Plan will lose momentum around election time, but I feel that participation will still be high,” Dale said.

Currie shared similar concerns.

“I hope the public forums are not overshadowed by the election,” Currie said. “I don’t think that it will matter who gets elected. We have a new city manager, a new Comprehensive Plan and a time to regroup and get refocused as a city.”

Dale estimated the Comprehensive Plan Update would be complete by June 2008.