Lafayette planning moving to next phase
The 18-month process to develop a so-called comprehensive plan for Lafayette’s growth and development has begun with an effort to craft a “vision statement.”
The consultants being paid $1.2 million to guide the planning process — Wallace, Roberts & Todd — characterize the statement as something that wraps up the aspirations of the community.
Residents met in a series of forums earlier this year, breaking off in small groups with markers and big pads of paper to jot down their fears and hopes for the future.
The planners are now shopping around a draft copy of the “vision statement,” which is written as a description of what Lafayette might look like in 2035.
Lafayette is described as a cultural hub that has capitalized on its Acadian and Creole heritage and retained its small-town feel while having grown and diversified its economy by encouraging the entrepreneurial “wildcatter” spirit of small-business owners.
The public education system is top notch in 2035; the traffic system is well-planned and in good repair; local government is fiscally sound; Lafayette is a leading center for technological innovations; blight has been redeveloped; residential and commercial development is carefully planned and managed; and there are ample parks, green spaces and bicycle trails.
Lafayette, in 2012, is doing fairly well, but Lafayette in 2035 seems exceptional.
But figuring out how to get there — to that exceptional Lafayette of 2035 — could be tough.
Developing the vision, while time-consuming, was not that difficult.
Hundreds of residents got together to chat about their wants and desires, and then consultants honed in on the common themes.
Some people disagreed, and some people thought one thing was more important than another, but the planning process in Lafayette has shown there is general agreement on many of the big issues, such as education, economic development, traffic woes, cultural preservation and recreation.
After the vision is articulated, consultants will begin attaching dollar figures to those ideas.
A vision for a better transportation system is cheap. Roads are not.
Parks are great, but they cost money, and city-parish government does not have extra money lying around.
Indeed, local government has been dipping into its savings for the past two years to balance the budget and is looking at $5 million in cuts going into next year.
Any practical plan for the future will have to address the financial issues, and government generally deals with a lack of funding in two ways: cutting budgets or by raising taxes.
Managing growth and development to reduce sprawl could save money in the long run by allowing for a more-efficient use of public resources: Fewer roads, fire stations and utility lines will be needed if developments are not spread across the parish.
Wound up in those issues are potentially contentious debates over private property rights and what role government should have in managing private development.
The community will be asked to wrestle with those issues in forums planned later this year, when consultants will lay out the future consequences of doing things the way they have always been done or taking a more-active role in planning for a particular outcome.
Richard Burgess, who covers Lafayette city-parish government, can be reached at email@example.com.