The Gainesville City Commission and City Plan Board received a progress update on the comprehensive plan, ImagineGNV, that staff has worked to revamp for the past four years.
The update came during a Tuesday workshop with both boards and was the only item. City staff explained that the comprehensive plan sets overall city goals that shape its future.
Tuesday’s update highlighted how the city is trying to improve on the typical comprehensive plan process.
Forrest Eddleton, acting director of sustainable development, said Gainesville’s amount of outreach to the public, simplified language within the plan and steps for implementing stated goals make the city’s plan unique to other governments.
He said city staff has already reached out to the state to advise them that Gainesville’s comprehensive plan will look different than past years. The plan is laid out in chapters with easy language instead of planning and legal jargon, but technical elements, many required by state law, are included in attachments.
The plan also includes chapters not required by law or used in past comprehensive plans, like Gainesville Today, Our Cultural Identity, How We Work and How We Learn. Eddleton said most governments also don’t include benchmarks for measuring progress, listing goals without ways to implement them.
Mayor Harvey Ward said many cities hold the required three public meetings and pass the new comprehensive plan without any public input or even knowledge.
“It is risky to not do it that way,” Ward said on Tuesday. “It is risky to get out and talk to hundreds of people because when we come back and say we talked to hundreds of people, folks are going to come up to the microphone and say, ‘you didn’t talk to me.’”
City staff estimates that the comprehensive plan is 90% complete. Commissioners said the city will need to go through another round of public engagement with the complete product to let citizens comment on the tangible product. Comments and feedback are open on the website for the comprehensive plan along with the current text of the plan.
While the comprehensive plan provides overall direction on items like transportation, equitable development and safety, implementation of those goals will come through an operational plan. City Manager Cynthia Curry said she and the Office of Equity and Inclusion are working on the operational plan, coming up with measures to check progress and systems for moving forward on the stated goals.
Even though the city has spent years on the comprehensive plan, City Plan Board Chair Robert Ackerman noted that the work is just beginning. He said the plan includes data from a 2021 study that looks at inequalities across the city. The comprehensive plan lists those stated inequalities and aims to reduce and eliminate them—work which will only begin once the plan is final.
Gainesville staff aims to have the final draft document ready at the end of this year.