North Harmony Comprehensive Plan Hopes To Blend The Past, Future

The town of North Harmony hopes to step into the future by reinventing some of its historic charm.

Recently, the town released a comprehensive plan to develop the town over the next 10 years. Though the plan outlines many ways the town can improve itself through modernization, it makes a concerted effort to retain the rural, “small-town” feel that so many picture when thinking about North Harmony.

In a sense, the town hopes to send many aspects of itself back in time, while pushing other aspects such as development and government toward the cutting-edge.

“What put pressure on us to complete a comprehensive plan was the hotel that John McGraw had proposed,” said Sally Carlson, town supervisor for North Harmony. “The fact that we didn’t have everything in place was (an inconvenience). What we wanted to do was make sure that we had the intersection laid out the way we wanted it. And though the comprehensive plan does not specifically deal with (McGraw’s) property, that’s what pushed us to get it done. Putting a plan together for the various areas around the intersection was important.”

Now the town is prepared, after facing a situation such as the once-proposed McGraw hotel, where development could have come to North Harmony but no real strategies to prime the land for development were in place. The comprehensive plan outlines several strategies and goals with regard to promoting business and development, without abandoning the “small-town” feel its residents love.

BETTER THAN THE LAST

In completing the comprehensive plan, the town is hoping the current plan will be better suited for implementation than the last.

In 1970, the town hired the firm of Kendree and Shepherd to complete a comprehensive plan. Though the 1970 plan gave an in-depth analysis of development capacity from a local and regional context, it lacked a strong implementation component.

Additionally, since 1970, the only other effort made toward a comprehensive plan was the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which acts as a plan for the narrow lakefront district in each of the nine communities bordering the lake, including North Harmony.

Once the town agreed that another comprehensive plan with a more well-defined implementation component should be drafted, the Town Planning Board began the plan in 2008. The board sought to provide a better framework to guide the community.

COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION

It is safe to say that the goals in the town’s comprehensive plan reflect the desires of the residents of North Harmony.

As part of the planning effort for the new plan, an inclusive public outreach effort was conducted by the town.

According to the document, this was done to solicit feedback from the community on what its issues are, and to build consensus on a vision of North Harmony’s future.

As a way to get community feedback, the town provided community outreach in several different ways.

After sending out a community survey to all town landowners, a community meeting and open house were held to present preliminary recommendations and receive feedback.

Following those meetings, another meeting was held to present final draft recommendations. The final draft of the plan has since been posed on the town website.

With regard to the questionnaire which was distributed to all town property owners, 526 out of the 1,326 owners responded. Of those who responded, 50 percent reported living in the town for more than 20 years. The planning board was happy to get the opinions of residents who have a history in North Harmony, and who look forward to making the town part of their future, too.

Through the feedback from the questionnaire, the town was able to plan strategies which would help it to develop without changing what residents loved most about the town.

Through the questionnaire, the planning board learned that:

Nine out of 10 residents are generally satisfied with the transfer station, fire protection, road maintenance, snow plowing and the administration of the town;

72 percent of residents support the development of design standards for new commercial and industrial development to ensure that development is in concert with the community’s character;

73 percent of residents rated the protection of stream corridors and lakefront property as a very important issue;

The majority of residents supported commercial development in Stow, Ashville, the Panama/Stedman interchange and the area south of I-86;

Rural character and the characteristics associated with a rural community were the things that residents liked most about North Harmony.