The Jackson County government began a series of public comprehensive plan meetings Wednesday (Sept. 18) at the Jackson County Administrative Building. The first meeting was for members of the South Jackson communities to give their input on the future direction of the county.

Justin Crighton of Jackson County planning and zoning, gave those in attendance a background of the compressive plan, its purpose and the importance of public input.

"At its best, a comprehensive plan should be used as a guide for a community for the next 10-20 years," Crighton said. "We use it in a lot of different ways. It sets up policies, some aspirational goals, there's also a short term program that works to implement goals and policies. It's a good idea to stop and take stock especially with the pace of development in recent years. It's good to stop and see what our policies are and how policies in other counties affect growth.

"The purpose of this document is to express the will of the entire community. This is what Jackson County wants as far as growth goes and as far as transportation and infrastructure go. When someone goes against that plan, we can say no, this is not what Jackson County as a collective group wants."

The comprehensive plan in the past has identified where development should occur and where development shouldn't occur, said public development director Gina Roy.

"Some of the success stories have come from maybe having a little dispute with a municipality that's wanting to do a weird annexation and maybe not have the services," Roy said. "In both cases, it's helped on legal statute. It's a document that held importance in our office.

"In the past it was always considered a document you did and then it sat on the shelf. In at least the last eight years, it has really brought policy home and driven some of the ideas the planning commission has placed in these documents and we've utilized them."

Members in attendance were shown various maps. On one map, people were allowed to mark areas of South Jackson they love and areas they want to see improved. One woman in attendance marked every intersection featuring a train track on Hwy. 129. Overwhelmingly, members of South Jackson wanted to preserve the rural and wooded areas.

Boards where people could write in suggestions for the comprehensive plan were also made available. The suggestions ranged from creating a passive park to managing climate change.

More outreach events for the comprehensive plan are scheduled in the coming months, including more workshops for each district. From October to January, a survey will be put on line for Jackson County residents to give more input to the plans.

A second required public hearing will take place in May 2020 and the county is set to adopt the updated plan in June.

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