The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

May 8, 2013

City planners taking the long view

OTTUMWA — Even if you're doing something as simple as walking to school, work or the supermarket, it's hard to make progress if you don't know where you're going.

City of Ottumwa officials realized that 10 years ago, and on Tuesday, reaffirmed their commitment to their plan for Ottumwa's future.

"The demographics have changed since we were here last," said Cory Scott, Urban Planner at RDG Associates, a planning and design company with offices in Des Moines.

RDG was the company that put together a comprehensive map showing how the city could, and should, grow. But last time, they were using data from the 2000 Census. So as the comprehensive plan continues to unfold, it will require updates based on current need.

"On [some urban] projects, we're looking at the next 20 years, asking where we think development will be," Scott explained to a group of Ottumwa department heads. "This is a bit more specific, smaller plan. But we are still looking at 'housing,' 'quality of life' and 'smart-planning principles.'"

Scott said he was a little uncomfortable using that last term. What it really means, though, is using methods that the people who give out grants expect to see. When using those "principles," communities have been more successful in getting financial assistance toward growth. Housing can bring in money, too, as good, upper-tier houses tempt executives who might want to relocate a big business in Ottumwa. Also, that upper-tier housing availability, as people improve their lives and are able to move up, provides vacancies in lower- or mid-tier homes.

As for quality-of-life issues, like walking trails or parks, they may not actually make a profit, but they do provide additional incentive for newcomers to move to town, for families to remain in town and for college kids to move back.

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