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OC survey highlights land use, nuisances

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How does Orchard City uphold its values while addressing citizen concerns? This was the main question voiced Thursday, April 25, at a joint session to discuss the Visual Preference Survey conducted in March.

OC is known for small government, no zoning, no local sales tax or property taxes, and a quality central water system. However in the last several years pressure has increased for the town to consider developmental needs such as zoning concepts, capital improvements and a nuisance ordinance.

In 2018 the town learned there may be some options available to help clean up brownfields, which contribute to the community outcry. Now the town is discussing its vision and future with an eye on addressing citizen concerns.

One of the first steps was through this Visual Preference Survey, which took place in March and featured "Public Meeting Unleashed" boards placed in six different locations throughout Orchard City. Respondents ranked seven categories and corresponding images (land use, job opportunities, building design, streets and lighting, walkability, things to do, places to go) on a scale with one being most desirable.

Trustees and the planning commission gathered at the joint session to hear TJ Dlubac of Community Planning Strategies present the final draft report and recommendations.

"This report itself does not give any definitive results or clear guidance but more takes the results into context and evaluates efforts that could be undertaken," said Dlubac. Essentially the intent of the survey was to offer input to help guide next efforts.

Dlubac pointed out that due to the low number of responses the results couldn't be termed scientific but did indicate some clear trends. Only 1.16 percent of the Orchard City population, or 36 participants, gave feedback. Ten percent would have been a good response rate.

Feedback indicated that open lands and vistas, agriculture and rural land use is most desired in OC. Not surprisingly, shopping centers and retail stores within the town ranked lowest.

Responses also pointed toward enjoyment of hiking and trails and that these could be expanded for multiple uses.

Based on the results, Dlubac suggested an amphitheatre, which would promote the outdoors, and walking were the two strongest responses on the survey. Otherwise, bringing in more things to do was not a strong desire.

Dlubac pointed out the possibility of developing land use planning, or design guidelines/standards, rather than zoning. Taking the concept of "what do we want the community to look like," could be centered more around an "impact related standard" rather than requiring certain criteria be met.

"To create the future that's what you want, you have to establish what that is and set those parameters," he said.

Overall, the recommendations seemed to focus on the fact that "regulation doesn't need to be bad" but can instead set standards that are "not overbearing and reflect the desires of the community."

The meeting did turn toward a nuisance ordinance, specifically when discussing how to deal with items like noise, light, and health and safety issues. Discussion concluded that land use and a nuisance ordinance are two separate things, especially when addressing health and safety concerns.

The survey and its results are to help shape the town's vision and how the town wants to move forward. Then these results can be used to evaluate how to rectify concerns and identify nuisances.

"If you created a nuisance ordinance that identified the bare minimum of standards for health and safety that's a different tool than land use and zoning," said Dlubac.

Nuisances have been a hot topic for years and it's becoming clear the town needs to move forward in dealing with these issues. However the main question that arises is how to enforce an ordinance while also upholding the values that make OC.

The next step the town will take is mailing a community survey. This survey will explore more of the town's future and vision which they could use to implement an ordinance for addressing health and safety concerns.

Dlubac suggested using the mailed survey as a way to also gauge what citizens are willing to invest in. He recommended the town look into an economic analysis to understand how improvements to the town could be funded.

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