Government in this area seems to thrive off of the idea of public input guiding policy. So I have good news for those who like to feel like their voices are heard: the City of Platte City will want to hear from you again. Just not right now or at least not on the matter of city planning.
Last week, the Platte City Planning and Zoning Commission met to discuss long-range city planning. They talked for more than an hour on Tuesday, Dec. 1, and with some time to kill while waiting for another story, I represented “the public” as the only guest in attendance.
Plenty of interesting topics emerged, even if the impact isn’t felt until a much later date.
Officials hope to have a solid draft of a comprehensive city plan within a year. The final document would hopefully be adopted by early in 2017 with help from a consultant to gauge the public’s feedback to the ideas.
The first meeting allowed Platte City city administrator DJ Gehrt to brief the commission members on the different areas that will be covered in this document. The plan moving forward is to hold periodic meetings to discuss each section in more depth to come up with a draft that can be turned into a final document.
All of this needs to tie in with planning for the Highway 92 Corridor Study and development plans for land on the east side of Interstate 29 between Highway HH and Highway 92.
Sounds simple, right?
“We’ll start looking at our existing comprehensive plan, comparing it to the chunks here,” Gehrt said. “We’ll do it chunk by chunk. ‘This is what we have; this is what we want’ and go through it. “We need to look at the small chunks in detail and then come back and look at the big picture to make sure our small chunks hang together.”
The commission can determine the direction but a number of interesting conversations sprang up for consideration. Any of them could become part of the direction taken in the coming months.
The Platte River is seen as an important but underutilized natural resource.
This fascinated me for a number of reasons. I certainly think people that enter and exit Platte City, especially from the west, know the Platte River is there, but I guess it’s true that you can’t necessarily access it in town.
There seemed to be some interest in finding a way to tie it into parks trails — city and Platte County — to give residents a chance to see the natural landmark in other ways that just driving over the Highway 92 bridge.
This would involve continuing to look at multi-modal transportation as a possibility for Platte City. Think walking, biking, etc. This also involves continuing to make sidewalks connective to encourage pedestrian traffic.
“You could see a green corridor down one side of the river,” commission member Jim U’ren said. Industrial businesses need a home.
Platte City’s commercial areas don’t really have much in terms of industrial or light industrial. The ones that exist are in areas more by accident than by design.
One of the main clusters is right on Highway 92, just across the bridge on the west side of town. Gehrt wondered if that “gateway” is really an ideal locale for those types of businesses.
“Even our body shops and car repair places don’t really have a place to go,” Gehrt said.
So where do they fit in? No one is suggesting forcing the existing businesses to move, but offering them a suitable destination, possibly on the east side of I-29, could be a possibility.
There’s no desire to annex areas that don’t want to be annexed.
There were some failed efforts to annex certain portions of neighboring land in the recent past, and both Gehrt and mayor Frank Offutt reiterated that simply annexing areas for property taxes does not fund what it costs to expand services.
Could the city grow beyond its current three-square-mile size? Possibly, but only if citizens initiate a desired change. The new planning document will likely outline some parameters on how that process would work.
“We should be so good and maintaining so well that people want to annex because it’s better than what (they’ve) got,” Gehrt said.
The city facilities are still old and probably drawing near to mandatory action.
This has not been a secret but having city services offered across five different buildings doesn’t seem very effective. Add in that the buildings average more than 70 years of age, and it’s really not optimal. Take out the Platte City Community Center, and they’re still really old.
The former home of Platte City High School will soon reach the point that its been not-a-school for just as long as it was a school (1910-1964). Gehrt likens much of the money spent heating and cooling the buildings, including the community center and Paxton Street garage, to lighting bales of $20 bills on fire.
Bringing places up to long-term code and other operating expenses will soon be more costly than simply building the new facilities.
That could mean the end of the community center or a new location in the old gas company building on Main Street, which would need to be purchased as would the current home of KC Bobcat and Absolute Crane. The latter two could be options at some point but are also located on a major intersection, which is not necessarily desirable.
That means that new construction, rather than renovation will be the most likely option.
“Something goes down; something goes up,” Gehrt said.
And it might happen in the next five years. One option might include the occasionally discussed demolition of the iconic old high school.
But all of these are just ideas and speculation, but there will be a document made helping guide the future decisions.
Citizens will have a chance to express their desires, so don’t miss the chance to attend a P&Z meeting in the near future if you want to have a say. All of this is designed to keep Platte City viable as an attractive destination for people to live and work.
This is one set of policy that I can bet residents would find interesting if they plan to be a long-term resident.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.