Posted on 11 April 2013.
Central has always been rural. Central is still rural. If we play our cards right we can keep Central from ever becoming over developed. Our City of Central takes in 66 square miles. As a comparison, Baton Rouge covers 77 square miles, San Francisco 47, St. Louis 62, and Washington DC 69 square miles. No doubt, these metropolitan areas have expanded far beyond their actual city limits, but it give us an idea of how truly expansive Central is.
Creating one of the premier School Systems in the state has made Central a very desirable place to live, so much so that we have grown while much of the state is stagnant or losing ground. In fact, in order to sustain our excellent schools and keep our roads, sewerage and drainage on pace with that growth, we actually NEED growth, but not just any growth…..Smart, Controlled Growth.
Enter, stage left, The Master Plan. Our Master plan is not a single document. It is made up primarily of a land use map, new zoning classifications, recommended zoning changes across the city, and a pattern book to control the look and quality of new buildings. Behind these documents are a great deal of research on traffic, floodplains, population, school growth, infrastructure availability, citizen preference, lifestyle, and many other elements. All of this is scheduled to come together to be formalized and become a part of Central’s ordinances during 2013.
In a recent look at the Master Plan progress I asked whether we have planned well enough to accommodate the commercial growth Central needs without losing the rural nature of the community. I found that our major intersections and roads such as Wax, Hooper, and parts of Sullivan and Joor will indeed experience commercial growth by design. I also see that if these areas are fully developed there will be enough commercial space in Central to support a city several times our size. By my estimation, this leaves about 80% of Central untouched by commercial development.
The last piece of the puzzle seems to be all of the unknowns. What will our population growth be? Where can new neighborhoods be built? Will more retail and office space be needed? What happens when Central is faced with truly significant opportunities such as a job and sales tax producing industrial facility or outlet mall?
Fortunately, our Master Plan is a living document. I am not in favor of random and frequent exceptions to the Master Plan, but we will, as Central matures, have the opportunity to re-evaluate and improve that plan to meet the needs of the Central community. There is no such thing as “Smart Growth” unless there is growth, but there may be no such thing as rural if development goes unchecked. I say let’s keep a watchful eye out and find the balance of the two. That would be, Good News for a Great City.