Comp plan needs engagement to be
ELLSWORTH – As the Village of Ellsworth begins work to update its Comprehensive Plan, residents are being asked to fill out a brief survey and participate in the process.
Christopher Holtkamp, an assistant professor of conservation and environmental planning at UW-River Falls, and his team are assisting the village with updating its Comprehensive Plan, which is required by state law to be done every 10 years.
“It represents an opportunity for the Village to identify key challenges and opportunities and provides a framework for decision making for community leaders to allocate resources and undertake projects to address those challenges,” Holtkamp said. “It relies heavily on public engagement as we want to ensure the plan reflects community values and priorities and has the support of Ellsworth residents.”
It’s also intended to be a community plan, with opportunities for community groups, volunteers, local businesses and individuals to engage in achieving identified goals.
The first step in completing a new Comprehensive Plan is information gathering. Holtkamp and his team have developed a Demographic and Eco-
See PLAN, Page 13 SURVEY
From Page 1
nomic Analysis of the village using Census data and other sources.
“This provides an overview of Ellsworth related to population growth over time, educational attainment, housing costs and mix of housing, household income, employment, things like that,” Holtkamp said. “It’s the starting point for us to begin identifying potential issues and challenges.”
A Steering Committee has also been appointed. Their role is to be the on-going voice of the community throughout the planning process “to make sure we stay on track with what we hear from the community through the survey, town halls, and other forum for engagement,” Holtkamp explained.
The survey is the first step of extensive public engagement. It will help the team identify key issues, opportunities and challenges facing Ellsworth residents.
“It provides a big picture understanding of what concerns residents have, what they feel needs to improve, but also those characteristics they love about Ellsworth and don’t want to see change as the community grows,” Holtkamp said.
It also sets the stage for the town halls, focus groups and interviews (to gain more detail) that will follow.
Village President Becky Beissel encour-ages……………… The survey should only take 10-15 minutes to complete and is open through the end of January. The range of questions helps the team understand who is responding to the survey. People are asked, for example, why they choose to live in Ellsworth, what things they think need improvement, what they like most, what housing types (if any) are needed, etc.
Once it closes, the team will take a couple of weeks to analyze the results and compile a report. The results will be presented during a series of Town Hall meetings. A report will also be available in mid-to-late February.
“The results are the starting point to get a big picture understanding of what Ellsworth residents care about,” Holtkamp said. “It allows us to further understand the community, your values, and how we can ensure the plan reflects those values.”
The plan will serve as a framework for decision- making by community leaders, and it’s important for them to know they have the community’s support when allocating resources and making tough decisions, Holtkamp said.
“Having a good survey response and participation in the other engagement activities will show village leadership they are on the right track when they make decisions that are embodied in the plan goals and recommendations,” Holtkamp said.
Before earning his PhD in 2018 and becoming a professor, Holtkamp had a 20-year career as an urban planner. He has worked on dozens of plans, primarily in small, rural communities in Central Texas. His areas of expertise include land use planning, economic development, housing, strategic planning, downtown revitalization and geographic information systems.
This is the second plan he’s worked on in Wisconsin. He worked with the Village of Pepin in 2020 and 2021. While that had limited public engagement due to COVID, the public’s participation in the process is vital for a successful plan.
“The Comprehensive Plan is meant to be the community’s plan and they will have to take responsibility for its implementation,” Holtkamp said. “Often, a community will go through the planning process and then put the plan on the shelf, call it done, and never look at it again. That’s not how plans are meant to work. The plan is really just the starting point, identifying goals and objectives for community action. When there is meaningful community engagement, residents feel invested in the plan and push to make it reality.”
Residents can expect the first round of town halls to take place later in February or early March.
To fill out the survey, go to https://tinyurl.com/EllsworthSurvey2022 or scan the QR codee above.
The QR code above leads to the Plan 2022 Ellsworth community survey.