Borough comprehensive plan consultants should be local, assembly members say
The Petersburg Borough Assembly voted down 2-3 a request for proposals (RFP) that would have allowed consultants to bid on assisting the borough in developing a comprehensive plan.
The comprehensive planning process is extensive and covers things such as updating zoning and land use, identifying and selecting state land for economic and community development, evaluating housing availability and affordability, the impact of tourism and other quality of life issues.
Developing a harbor master plan will also be included in the comprehensive plan.
Updating both plans is estimated to cost between $200,000 and $300,000.
The state shells out money for borough transition processes and Petersburg Borough Finance Director Jody Tow said Petersburg will receive $600,000 in July—a portion of which will cover the costs of updating Petersburg’s comprehensive plan which hasn’t been updated in more than ten years.
Assembly member John Havrilek said he had a problem with offering proposals to consultants outside of Petersburg.
“You end having someone from Georgia or Florida write a proposal about what’s going to happen in Petersburg…It just seems to me that with all the local talent we have that I would much rather see this be kept as a local project,” Havrilek said.
Economic Development Council Director Liz Cabrera said it’s a good idea to have an outside agency involved in the process because it allows for independent moderation.
“One reason you bring an outside consultant in, and hopefully it won’t be someone in Georgia but if they do provide the best proposal we would probably go with that, is you want an independent set of eyes on the issues,” Cabrera said. “I think if you had it in-house we all know each other really, really well and we all have our pet projects and I think that can undermine a project like this where every voice should be considered equally and every idea should be considered like it’s a new idea and evaluated accordingly.”
She also said the planning requires some technical skills such as engineering that locals may not be able to bring to the table. She added that Petersburg residents will have every opportunity to be involved in the planning processes.
“The talent that we have in town and the ideas that we have in town, they really are going to define what the plan is all about...the public and everybody in town and in the borough has a really important role to play and we should allow them to play that role and not use them up trying to facilitate discussions and write reports. That’s what we hire the consultant to do,” Cabrera said.
Havrilek agreed with Cabrera regarding individual motives getting in the way of what’s best for the community as a whole but said that various voices should balance private interests.
“It just drives me up the wall when we bring someone from out of state as a facilitator when that’s (facilitating) not a big deal,” Havrilek said. “I understand that you don’t want people compromised or doing their pet projects but when you have so many people on a committee, everyone has their voice and I think that evens out.”
Havrilek said he would approve a request for proposals if the assembly mandated that consultants be local.
Vice Mayor Cindi Lagoudakis said it was more important to bring in experts in the field and that community involvement will still be extensive.
“I think the other idea is to have someone who is familiar with land management planning and understands the overarching objective and, as Liz says, can facilitate the discussion and make sure we don’t miss any pieces as well,” Lagoudakis said. “But there will be representation from different segments of the community who are appointed to the group that reviews and, in addition, public comment will be solicited a number of times.”
A land selection committee made up of Petersburg residents have been reviewing state land available for municipal selection and would work with any potential consultant. It’s a job assembly member Bob Lynn doesn’t want done twice.
“I think the committee that was selected…can do a better job than a contractor can do it,” Lynn said. “I would propose that we take that out or at least modify it in some way otherwise I have a no vote on this.”
Lynn and Havrilek both voted against the RFP. Assembly members Jeigh Stanton Gregor, Nancy Strand and Lagoudakis voted for it.
The assembly needed four yes votes to pass the RFP. Mayor Mark Jensen and assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter did not attend the meeting.
The borough assembly had planned to award the project to a bidder by August. The presentation of a draft plan to the Planning & Zoning Commission along with public and departmental review is scheduled for April 2015. The presentation of the final comprehensive plan and harbor master plan to the assembly for approval is scheduled for May 2015.