A good Comprehensive Plan is part vision-statement and part practical guide to action. Focused primarily on matters of land use, it describes a community’s current conditions and charts a course to a desired future. Once completed, a Comprehensive Plan serves as the basis for subsequent decisions on zoning, infrastructure, development, and preservation. Even the most thoughtful Comprehensive Plan cannot anticipate all of the factors that shape a city’s options, and so such plans are intended to be living, flexible documents that change in response to new conditions and opportunities. But the value of a good plan cannot be overstated in helping to guide municipal priorities.

New Rochelle’s current Comprehensive Plan is fifteen years old. And while it has been updated periodically on a piecemeal basis, it is now time for a full re-draft. During the June 14th meeting of the City Council, our Planning Director Eleanor Sharpe presented the essential principles and procedures that will shape this effort. We expect the process to unfold over approximately 18 months and to involve extensive public input. You can learn much more by viewing Ms. Sharpe’s presentation.

In recent months, I have written about the City’s GreeNR Sustainability Plan, a Bi-State Regional Planning Consortium, and a mayors’ planning session with the Lt. Governor. Now we can add the Comprehensive Plan to this list of significant, forward-looking initiatives that will help shape New Rochelle for decades.

It is easy to dismiss such efforts as so much hot air and shuffling of papers, but that perception would be dead wrong. I have found that good planning is invaluable and benefits our community on multiple levels:

  • enhanced capacity to attract private investment and economic development;
  • improved access to grants, some of which explicitly require a planning component;
  • broader community involvement in civic goal-setting;
  • rational and proactive allocation of scarce resources, especially for infrastructure; and
  • better decision-making by the City Council and Administration.

What’s more, this is precisely the right time to concentrate on planning. By doing this work now, in the midst of a difficult economic climate, we can move immediately to implementation when the economy improves. I want New Rochelle to hit the ground running as soon as the recovery finally arrives.

Lastly, our various planning initiatives are intended to complement and strengthen each other. For example, the land use principles laid out in the Sustainability Plan will form the basis for the more detailed goals in the Comprehensive Plan, and the transit analysis made possible by our involvement in the Bi-State consortium will be integrated into the Comprehensive Plan’s transportation recommendations.

You’ll hear much more about all this in the months ahead, and I look forward to constructive input from our entire community.