The proposed Hermitage Comprehensive Plan gives “a sense of appreciation of how unique and diverse the city of Hermitage is,” said Matt Liburdi, who served on the plan's steering committee and is a member of the Hermitage Planning Commission.
“You go from rural to industrial to highway commercial and maintaining vibrant neighborhoods,” he said.
The plan reflects views from all those constituencies, combining them into what Liburdi called a “shared vision.”
City officials welcomed comment from anyone through surveys, the www.hermitage.2030.com web site, a public meeting and focus groups that included high school students, senior citizens, developers and real estate professionals.
“I never got a sense that there was any divergent opinion as to what the city really needed or where it should go in the future,” Liburdi said. “From all the constituencies, they really came up with this plan of a shared vision of what Hermitage would look like to the future.”
Liburdi spoke at the planning commission meeting Feb. 4, when the commission approved the plan, a key requirement on its path to adoption.
Later in the day, the Hermitage Community and Economic Development Commission gave the plan a stamp of approval.
City officials and Mackin Engineering Co., the plan's consultant, expect to present the plan to the Hermitage Board of Commissioners on Feb. 27, open a 45-day comment period on April 1, hold a public hearing on the plan on June 20, and ask the commissioners to adopt the plan June 26.
The plan is the city's vision for how development should progress in the next 10 to 20 years. Goals include:
- Creating a city center that goes beyond being a shopping destination, and creating a walkable area with public space and a mixture of uses and entertainment.
- Adopting a holistic approach to land use policies that focuses on connecting neighborhoods, preserving open and agricultural space, and improving health through recreation and active transportation.
- Preserving thriving neighborhoods by maintaining their character, and diversifying housing to meet the needs of non-traditional families and allowing residents to remain in the city when their housing needs change.
- Creating complete corridors, where vehicles co-exist with walkers and bicyclists, and improving the appearance of the road system.
- Building on an already-prosperous economy by working closely with existing businesses on retention, expansion and attraction issues.
“I think this is the precedent for the whole county,” said HCEDC member Angela Palumbo. “This is the start of big stuff. If we continue on this path and follow this path and do things, it'll benefit everyone in the county. This is an excellent plan.”
Steering committee member Erin Houston said she's excited at how the plan addresses “the younger crowd.”
Amy McKinney, a member of the steering committee and the planning commission and director of planning and community development for Lawrence County, said she likes how the “user friendly” plan creates “character areas” and identifies goals for each one.
The character areas, which are city center, rural residential, suburban residential, institutional, neighborhood commercial, highway commercial, business technology and industrial, are “an ingenious way to look at us,” Liburdi said.
The character areas, which might contain more than one land use zoning district, show the plan trying to be flexible in allowing development, but without destroying what is already charming and unique about those areas, he said.
“You're not gonna find that in another city, that has eight character areas in it, in my opinion,” Liburdi said.