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Public meeting scheduled for Gering’s future

September 23, 2018

GERING — A lot has changed in Gering over the past 25 years and the residents are being asked to share what they envision for the city in the future.

The city’s comprehensive plan was last updated in 1995 and current zoning codes go back to 1984.

Between now and next summer, the city will be looking at how to update the comprehensive plan to assure the city is ready for growth based on what residents see for the future.

A public meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 4-7 p.m. at the Gering Civic Center.

The format is flexible, so the public can stop by at any time to learn more about the project and offer their ideas. A successful comprehensive plan is one that includes a lot of public input so the entire community can share a common vision for future growth.

Gering City Planner Annie Folck said both the comprehensive plan and the zoning codes are somewhat outdated.

“When you look at how the world has changed with online business and shopping, it’s totally changed things for the retail sector.”

Folck said many of the zoning questions the city receives today were never thought of in 1984 — things like microbreweries and tiny houses. The city has no guidelines for how to address those new ideas.

The entire project is a two-part plan. The city will first address the comprehensive plan, which describes the vision for Gering’s future. Questions to be answered include what type of growth the city wants to see (and how fast), where that growth should occur and what the city can do in the way of encouragement.

Other city priorities will also be considered, from transportation improvements to new parks and other city venues.

“Basically, we’re asking the public what’s the kind of city they want to live in,” Folck said.

Input from the public and other organizations will be taking place over the next few months. The resulting draft plan will then be reviewed and workshops held to give everyone a chance give it a look.

“We’re hoping to have the comprehensive plan finalized around January 2019,” Folck said. “From there we’ll dive into updating the zoning codes, which we hope will be completed by the end of next spring.”

The project, which will cost in the neighborhood of $113,000, has been accounted for in the city’s engineering budget.

A successful comprehensive plan isn’t a 300-page document. It’s a summarized, concise statement of where the city is now, what issues it faces, and how it will move forward toward a stated vision. It’s a living document that will be regularly modified as future opportunities develop.

Folck said the plan isn’t going to be one that gets filed on a shelf once it’s completed. It will be used on a regular basis by city staff when making zoning decisions. All city reports regarding zoning should refer back to the vision stated in the comprehensive plan.

“We just about have to get this done,” said Gering City Council member Julie Morrison. “We need to figure out how we want to grow and implement an organized plan to make it happen.”

Since the comprehensive plan was last updated, Gering has sited an industrial park east of town. The city’s electrical grid was also upgraded to meet the needs of manufacturing type businesses the city hopes to attract.

In the past couple of years, the city has also built a new baseball field complex that’s now home to the Western Nebraska Pioneers of the Expedition League.

Folck encouraged everyone to drop in at any time during the public meeting to chat with the project team.

Those unable to attend are asked to visit the website plangering.org to review the plan and fill out a community survey to assure their voices are heard.

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