Council approves firm for comprehensive plan
During Monday’s regular meeting, the City Council authorized an agreement with Gould Evans to build a comprehensive plan to carry the city into 2040.
Gould Evans was selected out of eight firms that sent in a proposal. The firm was chosen by a selection committee, Mayor Peter Christie said.
The resolution passed with four votes in favor. Alderman James Wozniak voted in opposition.
According to the report in the meeting packet, the contract is set to cost $157,030. While the city budgeted $120,000 for this project, because it will continue into early 2018, the city can pay the remaining $37,030 with 2018 funds.
Dennis Strait, principal and board member for Gould Evans, said the plan would be focused on building value and fostering private investment in the city. Their planning process will take 12 to 13 months to complete and feature opportunities for public engagement.
The process starts, Gould Evan vice president and planner Graham Smith said, with a public engagement plan, and then moves into a community and fiscal assessment. From there, he said, the firm builds a vision and gets a plan together that can be implemented.
“This all boils down to an action plan for the community,” Smith said.
Alderman Linda Lloyd, who was on the selection committee, said she was unquestionably in favor of hiring this firm. They stood out, she said, among other qualified applicants.
“I think the comprehensive plan is something that is sorely needed in this community,” she said. “It’s not something that can be done in house.”
She worked on the strategic planning committee in 2012, she said, and that can function as a base to this process.
Alderman Brian Bahr said Bella Vista is transition and growth: The median age is decreasing, and he doesn’t believe growth is going to slow down. Having this plan, he said, could help guide developers interested in working in the city.
“One thing we’re lacking is that commercial element,” he said.
Alderman Doug Fowler sat in during the interview process, he said, and he was particularly impressed in this firm’s focus on fiscal responsibility.
Fowler said he has heard a lot of comments about the city creating a plan by itself; he isn’t sure that, even with its talented workers, the city has the manpower or expertise for it.
“We want to do as much as we can as well as we can,” he said, “but we don’t want to lean out over our skis too far.”
Alderman Wozniak, however, had reservations. Bella Vista, he said, lacks space for the commercial development a plan like this would be geared toward generating.
“I just don’t think at this point we have the money,” he said. “If I’m wrong, great, my bad.”