Comprehensive plan guides Noble County for 20 years

December 6th, 2018

By Steve Garbacz | KPC Media - The News Sun

If you want to see where Noble County is heading over the next 20 years, the Noble Tomorrow comprehensive plan lays out the route.

After months of public forums, feedback sessions and drafting, the Noble County Commissioners officially adopted the new long-term plan for the county in early November. The 64-page document touches on where the county is now, while also looking ahead at how it wants to grow and change and some major issues that need to be addressed.

“The biggest thing is that it highlights how we work better as a team instead of each working individually and separately,” Noble County Plan Director Kenneth Hughes said. “Showing this kind of collaboration is going to help us when it comes to different funding opportunities. Now they kind of build regions together to do these things.”

The plan is supposed to be good for 20 years, but it will be revisited after 10 years and tweaked, if needed.

The main goals of the plan include encouraging smart growth; improving quality of life and quality of place; enhancing community downtowns; protecting lakes and natural resources; maintaining the county’s agricultural heritage; aligning community visions that support one another; and delivering good government services for a good value.

Noble County doesn’t expect to nor necessarily want to be the next big booming county, but Hughes said one of the main aims of the plan is to help communities position themselves to be ready for development if and when it’s ready.

“If I were to give Noble County a tagline, it’s somewhere along the line of ‘Tending to our own piece of heaven,’” Hughes said.

Hughes looks at the exploding Indianapolis suburbs and although they have a lot of growth right now, the way it’s been managed isn’t necessarily the best or the most sustainable.

For example, if new growth starts coming to the southeast side as Fort Wayne’s influence reaches further north, the county should be open and ready and know where to put new residential, commercial or industrial opportunities.

“When they say ‘Yes, this is the community for me,’ as we hope they would, that they’re able to do that,” Hughes said.

The Noble Tomorrow document touches on some broad topics — land use, growth management, natural resources, flooding, economy, housing, transportation, parks and government — with some high-level goals as well as some specific actions to take in the coming years.

For example, under the housing section, the plan highlights a broad goal such as “Encourage the development of new neighborhoods to meet existing need and future needs in towns,” but also later offers some specific action steps such as investigating a Housing Tax Increment Financial District or establish a housing-focused community development corporation.

What’s happening now that the county plan is done, Hughes is continuing work with each of the six cities and towns to draft or update their own long-term plans.

By doing the county first, the municipal plans will be able to mesh with the county at large’s goals, while being able to hone in and address specific needs and wants in each of the communities.

For example, water management is very important in Rome City, while Ligonier continues to look for ways to capitalize on its strong industry and diverse population.

Ligonier, Albion and Avilla are first on tap as Hughes continues to work with Rome City, Cromwell and Kendallville slated for focus later in 2019.

One major benefit of having these plans in place is that it can potentially open up Noble County to some big grant programs going forward.

Hughes specifically mentioned the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Stellar Communities program. In the past, the state would bestow big grant prizes in the millions to individual communities with compelling plans. Recently, though, that plan has been retooled to have more a regional focus as the state wants to see a wider impact than just one city or town.

With Noble County and each of its communities having new plans in place, that can only help the county make a pitch for the multi-million-dollar program.

Click here to access Noble Tomorrow.

Categories Regional Leadership