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'They are tied together'

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APA-IN Chapter President Katie Bannon presents Henry County Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs with an award recognizing the Henry County Planning Commission’s Comprehensive Plan as the second best in the state, next only to the City of New Castle.
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New Castle Mayor Greg York and City Administrative Assistant Kendra Kennedy (center) accept the “Outstanding Comprehensive Plan” award from the Indiana Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-IN). They are pictured with APA-IN Chapter PresidentKatie Bannon.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

It’s always good when a plan comes together.

It’s even better when two local plans, created with teamwork and community input, are recognized as the best in Indiana.

The Indiana Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-IN) awarded the City of New Castle and the Henry County Planning Commission with top prizes Friday for their “notable planning pursuits that have exemplified planning principles and fostered positive impacts on Indiana communities.”

New Castle received the Outstanding Comprehensive Plan award at the APA-IN 2019 Spring Conference in Wabash.

“We are very pleased to receive this award from the American Planning Association,” said New Castle Mayor Greg York. “To be considered ‘Outstanding’ is very prestigious, and that is what New Castle is – Outstanding!”

York said a lot of hard work was involved in preparing the City’s Comprehensive Plan. He gave a special thank you to the New Castle City Council and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, which consisted of local community leaders.

Henry County’s comprehensive plan was awarded Honorable Mention in the same category, second in the state only to New Castle’s plan.

County Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs accepted the award on behalf of the Henry County Planning Commission.

“This was like the Oscars for the planning world,” Jacobs said.

APA-IN Chapter President Katie Bannon said, “It’s important to celebrate the value and impact of planning. Sharing insights into these impactful plans and the capabilities of professional planners can help other Indiana communities pursue their collective future vision and goals.”

Jacobs explained Henry County and New Castle worked closely together on their separate plans. Both communities also used the firm American StructurePoint to compile input from citizens, business owners and local leaders.

The Henry County Planning Commission started laying out a new comprehensive plan in 2017. The planning commission paid for the new 117-page, full-color document with $96,000 from the local Food & Beverage Tax fund.

“Food & Beverage money in the plan continues to pay dividends,” Jacobs said. “It continues to shine a light on Henry County.”

The Henry County Redevelopment Commission also provided $10,000 in matching funds for the endeavor, totaling $106,000.

Jacobs said he chose American StructurePoint at the planning firm partially because of their historic performance at industry conferences like last week’s APA-IN event.

The New Castle City Council paid for their comprehensive plan with a $50,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA).

Jacobs said the city was able to get a jump-start on their plan by building on the foundation American StructurePoint had already laid with the county’s plan.

He said the plans are tied together and compliment one another like siblings.

“It’s a good plan for our whole community: for the county and for the county seat,” Jacobs said.

City and county officials worked side-by-side on both plans. The communities were also able to leverage resources like local housing studies and bike/pedestrian plans to make their plans that much more robust.

“I think the City of New Castle did a good job on theirs, and they deserved the designation of Outstanding Comprehensive Plan,” Jacobs said.

The American Planning Association accolades may turn into more than just a couple plaques hanging in local government offices.

OCRA recently named Henry County, New Castle and Knightstown as finalists together – as the “Safe and Welcome” region – in the 2019 Stellar Communities competition. This year’s Stellar winner stands to win more than $20 million for local projects.

All three communities were selected to be in the “Safe and Welcome” region because of their comprehensive plans.

And two of those comprehensive plans were just recognized as the best in the state.