YOUNGSTOWN City seeks consultant for its comprehensive plan

Officials will decide what the city can do in-house.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city is working on revising its comprehensive plan before the document is even started.
That's one of a couple twists as the city seeks a consultant who will, in part, guide the plan's process.
In January, city leaders started talking about a new comprehensive plan for Youngstown, the first one undertaken since the 1950s. Such a plan is meant to guide planners, council members and city administrators in deciding how to use resources, mostly money.
City officials decided recently to seek a consultant who will do two main things -- neither of which involves writing the plan, said Bill D'Avignon, city deputy director of planning.
The duties: Usually, that's what consultants do. Instead, the city wants the consultant to:
UGather public input on what residents need and want.
UOutline a way the plan can be regularly updated through the years once it's done.
Once the input is gathered, officials will decide what parts of the plan the city can do in-house, D'Avignon said. The rest will be turned over to outside planners, he said.
Cities such as Nashville have used a similar approach, rather than contracting for all the planning, he said.
Circumstances change quickly, D'Avignon said, which is why the city wants the consultant to create a process where updates can be done easily.
"Planning now has become a process, more or less, that needs to be changed regularly," he said. "Things change constantly. The plan needs to be able to change. It needs to be flexible."
Potential impact: For example, it may take two years to finish the plan. But a federal renewal community designation, a downtown arena and the 711 connector highway project could each affect the future, D'Avignon said.
"There's a lot of things going on," he said.
The last plan was hardly updated, leaving city leaders with no vision to point to through the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Ideas for a few neighborhoods and some city statistics were updated from the original comprehensive plan, but not much else.
The proposal deadline for consultants is Nov. 16. There is interest among planners from across the United States and Canada, D'Avignon said.
A committee made up of two members each from city council, the planning department and community development agency, and one from the Public Service Institute at Youngstown State University will pick the consultant by year's end.
The consultant's work should start in January and be done by June but could take longer. A final comprehensive plan probably will take two years from then to complete.
The city has set aside $200,000 in federal money to devise the plan.