Imagine Madison presented their Comprehensive Plan for improving and renovating city infrastructure and economy to the Sustainability Committee Monday, moving one step closer to implementing the plan by next year.

Imagine Madison is part of a broader City of Madison initiative to address important community issues and adapt the city for the future.

The plan is organized into six themes: Economy & Opportunity, Neighborhoods & Housing, Form & Connectivity, Culture & Character, Services & Facilities and Green & Resilient. Each theme aims to achieve those goals through various strategies and actions.

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Kirstie Laatsch, city urban planner and project manager for Imagine Madison, said this plan is like a guiding document for how the city will make changes for the local infrastructure and economy.

“The planning horizon for [Imagine Madison] is to look out 20 years into the future and [focus] on the next 10 years,” Laatsch said. “It’s sort of like an umbrella plan and lots of other city initiatives and city plans sort of plug into the Comprehensive Plan.”

City of Madison announced their first citywide plan in 2006 to address pressing issues, define key goals and create the best path to move the city forward. The city implemented the current Comprehensive Plan with the intention of updating the plan every 10 years, with the newest update set for 2018.

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The development of the comprehensive plan is relatively new though. Since the 1920s, cities in Madison were required to have a “master plan” to guide the development of the city, however, criteria for the plans were not defined. Under the previous laws, even if cities created plans they did not necessarily have to follow through with them.

But in 1999, the state legislature passed Wisconsin Act 9, sometimes referred to as the “Smart Growth” initiative, which required cities to have public participation in plan making and adopt the plans in their entirety.

Imagine Madison Co-project manager Brian Grady said public participation is one of the most vital components in the planning process.

“We’ve designed Imagine Madison to be a public listening campaign to get feedback from the community so we can ensure the plan we put together accurately reflects what the community,” Grady said.

As the Comprehensive Plans moves forward, Imagine Madison has taken steps to include in each iteration of the plan.

The plan has four phases: “Where are we headed?” “How will we get there?” “What first?” and “Plan Renewal and Approval.” The plans starts by figuring out how residents want the city to change and ends with an official draft for the Comprehensive Plan.

In each phase of the project, Laatsch said Imagine Madison has held at three to four meetings for public commentary.

“We’ve been finding that people just don’t want to go to meetings,” Laatsch said. “So we’ve been trying to come to where they are already.”

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Laatsch said they are trying lots of different strategies to get community participation, like going to lunch meetings with local organizations or doing “pop-ins” to high school classrooms, but turnout still has not been as high as they hoped for.

In phase three of the plan, Laatsch said Imagine Madison has already held four community meetings and attended two of the 13 committee hearings scheduled before the plan is drafted. While there will not be any more public meetings, she said Imagine Madison will continue to take public comment through the website.

Laatsch expects a draft of the plan to be written by May of 2018 and finalized by July. She said the plan has a tight deadline for implementation, but she’s feels like the plan is on schedule and is necessary to build a better city.

“It’s a requirement, but we would do it anyways because we need to be thinking progressively and proactively about Madison’s future,” Laatsch said.