A full roster of Hillsboro Planning Commission members were in city hall Thursday afternoon, May 16, when Chairman Tom Gooding called the meeting to order.
After a presentation by Keith Moran of the Moran Economic Development Corporation, the committee moved to recommend the city council contract with Moran's group to write another economic development plan for Hillsboro. The current plan was written by committees of citizens in 2004 and reviewed and amended on approximately five year cycles since then.
Mayor Brian Sullivan introduced Moran to the group, who had kept the plan on the agenda since October of 2018. The mayor later stressed the importance of a comprehensive plan for these reasons: businesses considering a move to Hillsboro ask to see the plan; their first impression of the city is often that document; and the uncertain status of the West Central Development Council makes it difficult for Hillsboro to develop CEDS (Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy) documents required for infrastructure grant requests.
In the past six years Moran's firm has developed the Business District program for Hillsboro as well as working on the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) plan now in place. He explained that his firm will produce a data-driven comprehensive plan (the current one has little data support because gathering facts about an area is challenging for a small group) that will have a professional appearance. The planning commission had seen professionally developed and appealing plans of other cities and were impressed.
The commission voted 9-0 in favor of Don Karban's motion (David Powell second) to recommend the council hire Moran's group; most likely that will be on the agenda for the next city council meeting on May 28. Mayor Sullivan emphasized that a successful planning process, even with Moran's help, will require participation from the council, the planning commission, and groups like Imagine Hillsboro.
The mayor also reminded the planning commission of the American Made celebration sponsored by Atlas 46 for Saturday, May 18. The expansion of that company, which reportedly is already outgrowing its location on Berry Street, and the potential arrival of others will create a parking problem in the downtown area. "It's a nice problem to have," the mayor said because the potential exists for five hundred more jobs in the area.
In a bad news portion of the mayor's report, he said new IEPA restrictions on the phosphorous level of both the water entering the sewer treatment plant and the effluvium leaving it is too high. Woodard and Curran are conducting a study to see whether it would be more practical to refit the current plant or build a new plant. It isn't a problem unique to Hillsboro.
Commissioner Karban reported that the HUD Block Grant that the city received will be in effect soon; Tim Donham has interviewed some of the owners of houses targeted for improvements and will advertise for contractors soon.
Commissioner Barb Hewitt talked of Imagine Hillsboro's Events Committee's plans which include a fall festival, a joint project at Halloween, and a Farmers Market to be on the plaza during the summer. Also, donations for the dog park are coming in and serious work will begin once weather permits. Also dependant on better weather is the care of the planters adorning downtown Hillsboro.
Kendra Wright, a member of Hillsboro's Natural Resources Committee as well as Lake Glenn Shoals Club, said the new slips are in for the South Marina and are assembled but not ready for hookup because the decking has not arrived. She feels the mid-June target date for completion is still possible.
The planning commission next meets at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, in city council chambers. Public attendees are welcome.