Manvel city council has delayed the adoption of revisions to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. At its only meeting in December council made the decision to only discuss the Plan which served to postpone the vote a second time. A special joint meeting was held earlier in the month with one of the action items being approval of the first reading. To comply with legal requirements council must hold two public hearings on the matter to allow citizens an opportunity to put forth comments.
Reasons for council’s reluctance to approve the changes stem primarily from concerns expressed by some members that the document was not yet in its final form. Member John Cox said he would be uncomfortable acceding approval to a document marked as a draft. The city attorney explained the reason a draft was submitted for approval was to save the costs of printing, saying “we wanted to make sure all the comments were there before they were printed up.”
Member Adrian Gaspar used the instance to support his desire that council and the public have the opportunity to put forth ideas and suggestions prior to the first public hearing. As it is now generally done, the first public hearing is the initial opportunity council members and the public have to study the ordinance. And as the public is typically unaware until after the first public hearing is reported, their input is not heard until the second public hearing, at which time usually council votes their final decision.
Gaspar expanded on his concerns by requesting his fellow council members consider adopting a requirement that any proposed city ordinance be published and discussed before the first public hearing. He thinks council should read the document before the first public hearing and he would like to see the public have the opportunity for input so that council would be voting on the actual ordinance they are being asked to pass. He went on to suggest that when the second reading is passed, which at that point means the ordinance has been duly approved, that the official and final document should be then signed, dated, and timed so that each member would have an official copy. Gaspar explained his reasoning as concern that alterations to the document could be inserted between the times of verbal approval to when the document is finally signed by council members. He feels there should be no question later on should council have recollections different than what is being implemented. He says the original could always be consulted and would act as a safety precaution.
Other members felt the matter was not relevant to the discussion but Gaspar pressed on explaining he just wanted to make a point that council did not want to pass the ordinance because it said draft on it. He referenced the city administration as likely to continue asking council to vote approval on draft ordinances until it is made clear by council that they will no longer do so. He said it is the job of council to direct the city staff on expectations.
The implications in Gaspar’s comments were understandably received with some incredulity. Member Lew Shuffler asked Gaspar if he was suggesting there are examples of council approving something that actually was altered. Gaspar explained that he was merely wanting to improve the transparency of the city’s governance and feels it is the responsibility of city council to implement the policies that make that happen. The city attorney responded that the concern really is more a management issue that would be better discussed as a future agenda item. He did concede that it would not be a problem to change the process, especially for the big items such as the Comprehensive Plan, because once you do them they likely will not be changed for another five years.
City council is expected to finally vote on the adoption of the revised Comprehensive Plan when the first public hearing is held at the January 12 meeting.
Manvel implemented its first Comprehensive Plan in 2008 and adopted revisions in 2009. The city charter requires an update to the Plan at least every five years and that is why it currently is under discussion. The Comprehensive Plan is described as a long-range planning document to direct the city’s growth. It lays out the city’s goals and visions for the future and acts as a blue print as city council renders decisions on budgeting, staffing, resource allocation, and growth management. It is a tool to evaluate how change affects current citizens and in determining future infrastructure needs, land use patterns, and the allocation of city resources.
In 2013 council authorized a steering committee consisting of members of the Planning, Development, and Zoning Commission (PD&Z) along with members of the community and various consultants and stakeholders. The participants attended various meetings and provided input. The committee had detailed discussions over a period of about one year and established goals and objectives for each chapter of the Plan. Two town-hall style meetings were held where public input was received.
The Comprehensive Plan is a dynamic document that will change over time as the city develops. Elected officials and those appointed to serve on city boards are tasked with annually reviewing the progress of the Plan and to prioritize the next year’s goals and to recommend changes to the plan as needed.
Copies of the Comprehensive Plan are made available to the public and are available any time on the city’s website.