Tad Long plan presentation

Tad Long, center, with the Kentucky League of Cities in Lexington, presents the elements of a Comprehensive Land Use Plan to members of Benton’s Zoning and Planning board.

The planning for a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan has begun for the City of Benton. The city council recently contracted with the Kentucky League of Cities for assistance updating the current plan.

On Aug. 3 during a Zoning and Planning board meeting, Tad Long, director of community development services for the KLC in Lexington, made a presentation to the board about the components that go into the plan.

Mayor Rita Dotson said, “KLC has been an advocate for Benton for many years, and they have the experience we need to update the city’s comprehensive plan. We liked their work and felt it was important to have them lead us through the updating process. It’s important to us that we have their professional assistance.”

A land use plan is required every five years under Kentucky Revised Statutes 100 and provides a look into the future for the city. KRS 100 has four requirements, plus additional recommendations to strengthen the plan, according to Long.

The first requirement calls for the preparation and adoption of a statement of goals and objectives to act as a guide in preparing and implementing the elements of the plan. Unless the statement has not changed from the previous plan, it must be presented for adoption to each legislative body in the region.

The second requirement is for a future land use map to be adopted. These land uses can cover public and private properties, residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and recreational uses.

The third element regards transportation. This element will show the most desirable, appropriate, economic and feasible pattern for transportation channels and routes.

The final requirement is to show community facilities and services such as parks, educational facilities, libraries, churches, hospitals, welfare facilities, utilities, fire and police stations, and other public offices.

According to Long, he and co-worker Bobbie Bryant, community development adviser from Louisville, have started the research and inquiry phase of the plan, which will last through October. They will complete site analysis’ and take photos while in town during the coming weeks.

Proposals will then be drafted throughout the winter months to bring before the zoning board for approval.

Additional elements to help strengthen the plan are community demographics, economic development in the area, safety information, housing, environment and natural resources and historic preservation.

All those components will lead to recommendations and strategies for the city to implement over time. Having a comprehensive plan will also give the city the materials, facts and data to seek grants, and private and public funds.

The plan development will need community involvement. “When a city is trying to find a path to the future, the vision and the plan needs to include the community,” said Long.

Two public hearings are required before the plan can be approved. Due to COVID-19 restrictions regarding crowd sizes, multiple hearings may be held instead.

“We live in a time when it’s difficult to gather in large groups. If we do it right, we have the ability to engage more people by having multiple meetings,” Long said. “I hope we have the opportunity to engage high school students and others in the community who may have not had a voice, or opportunity, to participate in this type of plan before.”

At the first hearing, the plans goals and objectives will be presented. After the proposal is drafted in the spring, a hearing will be held to receive public comment regarding the proposed plan.

“It’s important that we get ideas from our residents and to know what they’re most concerned about for our future,” said Dotson. “The city council really hopes our people will work with us to establish a shared vision and establish our priorities for the future.”

According to a press release from the KLC, there will be a variety of in-person and online options for citizens to ask questions, share suggestions on things they would like to see changed and ideas for what they would like to have in the future for the community. Dates for those sessions will be announced in advance.

While the city may not be able to accommodate large in-person meetings, it will utilize a variety of ways for residents to collaborate , such as small groups, through social media and other means to ensure the safety of everyone.

The planning commission will then adopt the plan and forward it to city and county legislative bodies, including those outside the city limits but still in Marshall County. Those bodies will have 90 days to adopt or reject it. If no action is taken, the updated plan is automatically considered approved.

For questions related to updating the plan, contact Lois Cunningham, zoning administrator at 527-8677.