CITY MANAGER REPORT TO THE COMMUNITY – A NEW VISION FOR YOUR COMMENT
By Allison Williams
As I mentioned in my last update to the community in June, when I started here in January of 2020, the City Council set out three goals for me:
To establish a homeless program for the City
To update the City’s overall comprehensive plan
To stabilize the City organization after coming through a tumultuous period
As I reported in June, the City has made significant progress on all three. For this report, I am here to report on the City’s Comprehensive Plan, that is now in draft form and headed through the formal review and comment process. This Comprehensive Plan is critical for Moses Lake’s future. The plan is brought forward after receiving significant public comment through surveys, stakeholder committee updates, public meetings with City Council / Planning Commission and in-person outreach through social media, focus group meetings, service club meetings and our booth the Grant County Fair.
It is very critical that in this phase of the plan’s progression, our Planning Commission and City Council continue to hear from all voices about the future of Moses Lake. What is at stake? How Moses Lake will grow and provide for all citizens for the next 20 years.
What we heard in the process:
Moses Lake needs Vision. The following Vision Statement is proposed:
Moses Lake is a diverse, connected and supportive community of innovation and opportunity that values its namesake lake, small town vibe, growing arts and cultural scene, abundance of sunshine and outdoor activities.
Many may say “Words are great, we have had words and planning processes in the past so how can we be sure Moses Lake will follow through?”
Moses Lake’s Comprehensive Plan will put these words into code that will ensure that development occurs that will bring the plan to fruition, as long as the community provides input to support the plan and code development.
We heard from the community that you need to trust that the City will follow through. The community expressed concern about many things that a strong plan can address. At issue is can the City continue to sprawl outward while taking care of those things that came out so strongly from our community input:
Address the lake quality
Reinvest in the transportation network, it is showing strain
Create a vibrant downtown that provides a unique sense of place for Moses Lake
Make Moses Lake look better, we want to be proud of our place
Build up Moses Lake’s tourism economy
Ensure Moses Lake can attract jobs, particularly for the young
The plan not only is aspirational but there is analysis behind it so that the Planning Commission and City Council can weigh the facts.
When establishing where the City will grow, there is a buildable lands analysis that very conservatively looked at the growth that Moses Lake should receive and estimated the land it would need to build the additional housing units and associated commercial/industrial growth. What they found is that Moses Lake’s boundary or Urban Growth Area is too large. This provides a one-time opportunity to rework the boundary to guide where the City invests in the future (see the Land Use element).
The analysis done to identify the land needed to support housing, was supported by a Housing Action Plan, which determined that Moses Lake needs more variety in housing options in order to support the population now and in the future. How many of you who moved here recently would have enjoyed a housing type different than the one that you purchased? And was housing readily available once you arrived in Moses Lake? I can relay that I have had numerous conversations around this subject. The City, through our zoning and state incentives we have, can influence different housing types being built and where they are built. The City also has to think about those most at risk, and based on our work with our homeless populations, we do not have the affordable housing needed to support that population as well as helping young families and young professionals get started in housing (see the Housing Element).
The analysis to identify the land needed for the future also looks at the feasibility of providing urban services. What are urban services? Water service, sewer service, police service, fire / ambulance service, parks and a roadway system that supports it all. This plan will ask the City Council to make choices about where to focus the City’s resources. Do we expand, can we financially support the expansion or do we reinvest in what we have? (See the Capital Facilities Element, Utilities Element and Transportation Element)
Finally, the plan addresses how the community desires Moses Lake to look. The recent outreach process has identified that our community has definite opinions about how they would like the community to look and feel, and also the community would like the City to support the efforts to keep the lake healthy. The City can do this through the provision of sewer, getting lake front properties off septic systems. The City can also do this through the management of the shoreline and an updated shoreline master program is being developed. The City can do this by requiring that street front improvements are made when development occurs so that the improvements don’t fall on the citizens after the fact. The City can do this by being more careful about the uses that go in certain zoning districts. Those that review the plan will see a new Gateway Commercial District which is designed to ensure that the gateways to the community are developed with uses that are attractive and welcoming. (See the Land Use Element and Vision)
Moses Lake, we encourage your input. You can find the plan documents at www.cityofml.com. The Planning Commission will hold their public hearing on Thursday, September 16th at 6 p.m. Written or verbal comments are allowed: Planning@cityofml.com. The City Council will consider the recommendation of the Planning Commission at their regular meeting on October 26th , 2021.
As your City Manager, I am very excited to bring this document forward. With an adopted Comprehensive Plan, the City will be eligible for a number of grant resources that will help us ensure your Vision comes to fruition.