By Bob Stuart | Original Article
March 25, 2018
WAYNESBORO — Waynesboro City Council has approved the city’s new comprehensive plan for development, but one council member — Mayor Bruce Allen — wasn’t sold on the plan and voted against it.
Allen cast the lone dissenting vote Monday night in a 4-1 approval of the plan, which took just over a year to formulate with the input of the community, city officials and others.
Allen’s chief concerns: the costs of executing the plan’s many projects, and what he says is the plan’s negative depiction of Waynesboro as a community.
The veteran council member said his concerns go beyond the broad goals the plan offers, which include a better quality of life by investing in parks and greenways, improved infrastructure and neighborhoods, and a greater investment in the economy and local education.
Achieving the latter goal means better school facilities and attracting the best teachers with better compensation, the plan states. The school facilities will improve with the upcoming renovation of Waynesboro High School. And teacher salaries will become part of the upcoming budget discussions. A budget work session is scheduled for Monday.
Allen said the overall tone of the plan presented by consultant czb LLC, an urban planning firm based in Alexandria, Virginia, concerned him.
“I was frustrated with the way plan put a bad shadow on Waynesboro,” Allen said. He said czb portrayed the city as falling behind and not being an effective community.
In the years since he joined council, he noted, the city has constructed a water and sewer plant, put in new bridges over the South River and installed the South River Greenway.
“Does that sound like a town not doing anything?” Allen asked.
The mayor said he supports local education improvements and wants to focus more specifically on attracting companies that can add good-paying jobs to the city’s portfolio.
“We need to attract new industry and concentrate on keeping the ones we have,” he said.
Allen also expressed concern that there is no real estimate for how to accrue the money needed to get all the projects in the plan accomplished.
Waynesboro Vice Mayor Terry Short said the plan is crucial to the city’s future.
“My question is, what are the costs if we don’t take initiative and don’t start investing in ourselves?” Short said.
While Short acknowledges that the city has made investments in infrastructure, other improvements are necessary, he says.
“That [water and sewer plant] doesn’t improve police retention and test scores in schools,” he said.
Luke Juday, Waynesboro’s director of planning, said the comprehensive plan represents a year’s work and a direction for Waynesboro over the next decade. Juday said it is clear to him and others in the city that the goals can’t be accomplished overnight.
“Things will be done slowly,” Juday said. He said it is likely the 2018-19 budget would include more funds for sidewalk and greenway improvements.
Juday said after a year, it feels good to have completed the comp plan, a process that started with informal and small group discussions by a steering committee last winter about the city’s future. As time goes by, he hopes “everything will get done,” over the next several years, Juday said.
The plan, however, is not binding and one or more of the many projects might change or be scrapped altogether. Short said the comp plan has an even longer buildout than the one Juday estimates.
“There’s no way a community of 22,000 can accomplish all of these goals,” Short said. “It’s a 20-year plan and a 20-year plan for a reason.”
The plan took 57 weeks to assemble and pass.
“This is an acknowledgment of one of the largest community planning efforts I’ve been involved in in 20 years,” Short said.