Brenda Niccum arrived to an open house last week looking toward the future, even as she sometimes is unable to see a few steps ahead.
Visually impaired, she and coworker Aerika Katip joined about 100 people who attended Wednesday's Community Vision Open House for All In Allen – an update of a joint city-county comprehensive plan last completed in 2007. They were busy prioritizing goals for the next decade, placing blue stickers signifying importance beside items calling for better streets and improved connectivity.
Niccum said she'd nearly stumbled earlier that day on some stairs because they weren't clearly marked and she couldn't see.
“It does affect people's lives,” Katip said, referring to public infrastructure readily accessible to people with disabilities.
It's encouraging that efforts to craft the wide-ranging plan are focused on including all of Fort Wayne and Allen County residents in what will be a roadmap for how land is used and developed. The Journal Gazette's Rosa Salter Rodriguez noted the word “equity” came up often at the open house at the Grand Wayne Center, and it's also present among dozens of suggestions for area improvement.
• Improve broadband access to underserved areas.
• Update zoning and subdivision regulations to support a greater range of housing types and sizes.
• Expand access to physical and mental health services.
• Encourage diversity among business leaders.
“Promoting equity and inclusivity within Fort Wayne and Allen County will be a priority as the community continues to grow, ensuring a high quality of life for residents of all backgrounds,” a handout given to visitors of the open house says. “The community's approach to equity will focus on balanced growth and the creation of truly complete neighborhoods with safe and convenient access to neighborhood-focused businesses, a variety of attainable housing options, quality of services, schools and public parks.”
That might sound like pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but it's important for an area where elected leaders stress a need for continued growth and “quality of place.” Everyone should have a hand in both.
The key part of the equation, of course, is ensuring the finished product isn't a plan destined to sit unopened on a shelf in a government office.
History suggests that might not be a worry. In 2017, for example, a proposed 775,000-square-foot “truck hub” near the General Motors plant was scrapped after opponents argued Plan-It Allen – the previous comprehensive plan – called for homes and agriculture there.
Work on All In Allen began in 2020, and the plan was expected to be presented this winter.
“It seems like 20 years ago,” Brandon Nolin, of consulting firm Houseal Lavigne Associates, said.
The coronavirus pandemic skewed the timeline, and the plan should be complete some time in the spring.
At least one more public meeting is planned, and organizers are asking for input via the project website, allinallen.org.
This is your opportunity to join the discussion and ensure quality of life improvements for all Allen County residents.