Peoria's general plan is nearing ballot box

200-page document to go before council Nov. 12

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After multiple years of development and then public outreach, Peoria’s general plan is nearly complete.

The planning commission put its seal of approval on the nearly 200-page document and it is now scheduled to go before city council, Nov. 12, for approval -- putting it one step closer to placing it on the ballot for voter approval next year.

Peoria’s general plan is expected to serve as a road map for growth and development for more than 20 years into the future.

All municipalities are required to have a general plan per Arizona state law, which must be maintained and adopted by public vote every 10 years. The plan will be used to shape the future of the city by guiding growth and land development in accordance with the city’s goals.

Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Nelson said growth is coming to the city whether it is wanted or not.

“And I’ll be the first to confess -- sitting on Thunderbird Road coming home at five o’clock -- I’m not the biggest fan of growth,” he said.

“But I know it is coming, so you have to plan for it and you have to do it in a smart, thoughtful manner and I think this plan has done that.”

The general plan’s overall themes include wellness, fiscal responsibility, building on strategic relationships and resilient, adaptable forward thinking, as well as placemaking -- projects intended to activate areas of the city, giving them a sense of place.

Planning Manager Lorie Dever said staff has also refined land use by reducing the number of categories, opening and expanding the range of those categories and providing more specificity in the character within those categories.

“We’ve introduced community wellness within this plan. Placemaking has grown in prominence and is woven throughout the document. ...,” Ms. Dever said.

“We know we can’t do this alone. We continue to build on strategic relationships and we want to be more resilient, adaptable and forward thinking in the years to come because we are looking out 10 to 20 years and beyond.”

Most recent edits include fixing grammatical errors and typos, refining land use categories, and updating some maps.

A city-contracted consultant reviewed the Jomax Road alignment as part of Peoria’s capital improvement program and recommended an alignment that staff worked into the general plan at the last minute.

The map will be current in the document, incorporating the new Jomax Road alignment, east and west of Loop 303, Ms. Dever said.

“We have scrambled to reincorporate that recommended alignment within our circulation map, so it is a change because of setting additional topography in the area and lining up of additional projects on both sides of Loop 303,” she said.

Peoria’s last general plan update was approved in 2010. The new plan addresses a multitude of topics such as water resources, sustainability, housing, transportation and more. This includes some topics that were not in the last general plan.

It  has been completely updated and is designed around six livability goals: economic prosperity, healthy neighborhoods, superior public services, smart growth, integrated transportation, as well as arts, culture and recreational enrichment.

The city hosted numerous open houses for public input during a 60-day public comment period, July 18-Sept. 16.

“I know a major plan update like this, particularly in a high growth area like Peoria, can be very, very controversial and the fact that we aren’t seeing any controversy at our public hearings is saying a lot about the staff outreach and the responsiveness to the stakeholders,” Commissioner Bryan Patterson said.

State law requires every Arizona city update its general plan every 10 years. For cities with a population more than 50,000, like Peoria, the state requires the general plan to cover a minimum of 17 general plan elements.

Planning Commissioner Jay Otlewski said this is the second general plan he has been a part of in Peoria.

“This makes the other one look like guys sitting around in a smoky room just making decisions,” he said. “(The city has) really taken the time, put it out there and made sure everybody knew what was coming. From my perspective this is an amazing plan.”

Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, phaldiman@newszap.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.

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