“Planting Seeds for a Brighter Future” Comprehensive Plan
Located in the heart of Iowa, Jasper County boasts of a unique mix of rural settings and small-town living with the benefit of being situated just a short drive down the interstate from Iowa’s capital city. In an effort to keep the county moving in a positive direction, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors enlisted Snyder & Associates to create a comprehensive plan to help guide the community going forward.
A comprehensive plan is a long‐range guide for making decisions about the development of a community. These plans create a vision for the community supported by goals, strategies for growth, development ideas, and collaboration efforts. A successful comprehensive plan is heavily dependent upon public engagement. This means residents, business leaders, and city staff are brought together to identify the issues and challenges that are facing the community, along with the assets and opportunities that can be better utilized. The central vision created for Jasper County will combine prosperity and preservation, striving to be a community where people can put down roots to grow towards a brighter future.
This plan analyzes and incorporates a wide variety of components including land use, agriculture, economic development, conservation and recreation, transportation, public health and safety, county character, and housing. As a result, this comprehensive plan provides the tools that Jasper County can use to grow toward its future vision. It also includes goals and implementation strategies to achieve the plan’s overarching vision. Upon adoption by community leaders, the comprehensive plan establishes the basis for specific regulations, including the zoning ordinance, and other programs that impact the plan’s vision.
Comprehensive Plan Provides a Road Map for the Future
The Snyder & Associates team utilized Jasper County’s greatest resources — its residents, community stakeholders, and businesses — to define a vision for the community that promotes a high quality of life and builds upon the county’s unique features. To create a comprehensive plan, we worked with the Project Review Committee (PRC) appointed by the Jasper County Board of Supervisors. Representing different areas of interest and expertise, the PRC is comprised of county staff, community leaders, and other key members from the cities throughout the county. Our team acted as facilitators guiding the process toward a community-designed plan.
Public Engagement Strategies Critical for Understanding Issues
Snyder & Associates also facilitated public engagement throughout the planning process using multiple methods. These efforts included tapping the extensive knowledge and expertise of the Project Review Committee and utilizing four focus groups to gather first-hand knowledge of issues affecting local government operations. These focus groups include:
- County Staff Focus Group — Early in the process, Snyder & Associates met with 19 county employees with strong insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the governmental functions
- Incorporated Areas Focus Group — Our team coordinated with the incorporated areas of the county to ensure compatibility of future land use plans, promote economic development and plan for methods of ongoing collaboration
- Business Owners Focus Group — Business leaders in the county met to discuss the issues affecting economic development including business resources, physical and regulatory infrastructure, and the workforce
- Agricultural Focus Group — The planning group recognized the important role of agriculture in Jasper County’s economy and identity. With our sub-consultant “Solutions in the Land” leading the discussion, farmers discussed current struggles, new technologies, farmland preservation, natural resources, communication, and climate concerns
Throughout the summer of 2019, the consultant team and county staff attended special events to spread the word about the comprehensive plan and gather feedback on which topics are most important to residents. At each event, participants were asked to select their top five priorities for the county out of ten predetermined categories. An online survey was also used to receive feedback from the community. A total of 600 participants responded to the survey garnering a total of over 20,000 data points.
One of the more critical elements of the public engagement strategy was the creation of a dedicated website, https://www.jaspersbrightfuture.com/ that provided residents with updated information concerning the planning process. Finally, a public open house provided residents the opportunity to review all plan elements, ask questions, and provide feedback prior to adoption by the County Board of Supervisors.
Iowa Smart Planning Principles Considered in Creation of Comprehensive Plan
The Snyder & Associates planning team was guided by the Iowa Smart Planning Principles throughout the entirety of the study. These principles were implemented to ensure that planners consider and apply specific ideas during the planning process. These principles include:
- Efficiency, transparency, and consistency
- Clean, renewable, and efficient energy
- Occupational diversity
- Housing diversity
- Community character
- Natural resources and agricultural protection
- Sustainable design
- Transportation diversity
Guided by these principles, the planning team completed the entire project, which included project management, leading the planning process, researching demographic data, developing population projections, drafting the text, writing and executing public opinion surveys, facilitating discussions, and creating existing and future condition maps using ArcGIS. The team used the information gathered throughout the planning process to create objectives and strategies to meet the needs of Jasper County.
Key Takeaways Determined During Planning Process
To make the comprehensive plan more user-friendly for all interested parties, our team condensed several portions of the plan into a key takeaways section. This section summarizes the primary goals for land use, transportation network, mobility, housing, agriculture, conservation & recreation, economic, public health & safety, and county character. The takeaways section pinpointed two primary concerns that stood out during the planning process:
- Marketing and Communication — This was needed to let the public know about the great things the county has to offer, spread the word about various special events, establish a positive agricultural image, promote economic development, address public safety issues, and let people know of the numerous programs and resources available to address a variety of needs (e.g. farming, housing, economic development, and conservation)
- Collaboration — The comprehensive plan is not limited to issues that are solely addressed by the county government alone. While this may seem to complicate implementation, it simplifies the overall vision. The vision for the county encompasses many aspects of life. To address this broad vision, numerous entities need to be used as resources and partners
The new, Planting Seeds for a Brighter Future comprehensive plan created a 20-year vision for the entire county. Moving forward, this plan should be viewed as the guiding document of the community, pointing it in a thoughtful and consistent direction by providing valuable information for residents, developers, and community leaders.