Portage County Bike/Ped Plan: County Planning & Zoning Committee approves plan unanimously

At the Portage County Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Committee meeting held on Tuesday afternoon, the committee considered whether or not to recommend the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan to the Portage County Board of Supervisors.

The four committee members present – one was absent – had all attended last week’s joint meeting of the bike/ped plan committees where the final plan document was reviewed. That exposure helped inform the P&Z committee about the plan.

The discussion Tuesday among the P&Z committee members and P&Z staff touched on several themes. (To clarify, P&Z committee members are appointed by the elected officials of the county board, whereas P&Z staff members are employees of the Portage County P&Z Department. From a civics perspective, the P&Z committee is a legislative body, whereas the P&Z department is in the executive branch of county government.)

One key point made was that this plan does not commit any expenditures from the county or any of its municipalities. A vote for the plan merely indicates an acceptance of its blueprint for making bicycling and walking better in the county. Much concern was expressed about how to fund improvements called for in the plan. P&Z staff stated that these funding issues will be dealt with opportunistically as road reconstruction projects take place and grants are applied for and awarded. For now, the vote merely reflects whether the county should use this plan as a framework for making bicycling and walking better.

A broader discussion about implementation of the plan also took place. P&Z staff pointed out that there are already several citizen groups taking action in our community towards education and encouragement objectives in the plan. They also stated that their implementation work cannot start until the county formally adopts the plan.

Some discussion mentioned the need for various municipalities in the county to cooperate on the plan. A committee member raised the undesirable possibility that one township might decide not to implement a route on its roadways, thereby diminishing efforts by neighboring townships to create a coherent countywide bicycle network. P&Z staff indicated that the committees that guided creation of the bike/ped plan had broad representation from among the county’s municipalities and was approved unanimously by these committees. There is reason to expect cooperation among the various municipalities as plan elements that cross municipal borders are implemented.

Two of the committee members stated that when the idea for a county bike/ped plan was first proposed to them, they thought it was a bad idea. But both also stated that they changed their opinions after they had the opportunity to both learn of the scope and content of the plan and discover the vast amount of expertise and commitment contributed to the plan by the many citizens, municipal staff, and elected officials who served on the bike/ped plan committees.

When time came for the vote, the Portage County P&Z Committee voted unanimously in favor of the plan.

With this approval, the next step is for the Portage County Board of Supervisors to vote on whether to accept the bike/ped plan. That vote is expected to take place in April.

(Update 3/28: I just saw this post stating that there will a presentation to the Portage County Board about the bike/ped plan on April 15 and that the board will vote whether to adopt the plan on April 22. I have not seen an agenda for either meeting yet.)

If the full county board votes to adopt the plan, then the Portage County Bike/Ped Plan would be an official planning document for the county. Once that happens, county P&Z staff may officially start plan implementation activities.

I will continue to keep Poky Pedalers informed as the bike/ped plan moves through the legislative process. The PPSP webpage for the plan is an excellent source of information about upcoming meetings.

There has been discussion among P&Z staff about creating a committee of interested citizens to oversee the plan implementation activities. Having Poky Pedaler voices on this committee would be a great way to ensure that plan elements are prioritized to truly create better bicycling and walking in Portage County. I will use this blog and the PPSP webpage for the plan to keep Poky Pedalers informed about opportunities to serve on such a committee.

Disclosure: Bob Fisch, Chief Bike Fun Officer of Poky Pedaling Stevens Point, is a member of the Urban Steering Committee for the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project. Posts about this project appearing on the PPSP website are part of a broader PPSP effort to keep readers informed of bikey news in our area. Nothing posted on the PPSP website should be considered to be official communication from the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project. The official website for this project can be accessed at http://portagecobikepedplan.wordpress.com.

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