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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Public input is key to new All In Allen city-county plan

A News-Sentinel editorial in 2005 lauded the principle behind a joint Fort Wayne-Allen County comprehensive plan called Plan-it Allen!, saying the process “truly is local. It involves local officials talking about their mutual needs and a logical way to meet those needs more efficiently. … much of what has already been developed is the result of comments from citizens in public meetings – it’s the real deal, Allen County residents planning Allen County’s future.”

Now a new comprehensive plan called All In Allen will be discussed to become a blueprint to guide land use, housing, transportation, parks and more for Fort Wayne and Allen County. The two-year initiative will be used by community leaders to make decisions and policies to shape the region for the next 20 years. Its success will depend on the same principle as Plan-It Allen! – public input.

Anyone who lives and works in Allen County is encouraged to attend the All In Allen Joint Comprehensive Plan Kickoff event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Harrison rooms of the Grand Wayne Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd. The event is free, and refreshments will be provided.

The Plan-It Allen! plan, which took effect in 2007, included such guiding principles as the following: historic features and natural assets inherent within the community should be retained and enhanced; neighborhoods, downtowns, commercial centers and towns should be compact, pedestrian-friendly and mixed-use; the use of open spaces, such as parks, plazas and squares, should be encouraged to promote gathering places within the neighborhoods, downtowns, commercial centers and towns; housing with a diversity of values and types should be encouraged to provide housing choices within neighborhoods and throughout the community.

“Updating our community’s joint comprehensive plan is critical to the long-term success of our region,” Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry stated in the All In Allen news release.

John Houseal, co-founder of Houseal Lavigne Associates of Chicago, was approved last month as the consultant to work on the plan with local officials. Houseal has a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in environmental and urban planning from Arizona State University. He is one of the nation’s top urban planning professionals.

Houseal will speak at Wednesday’s kickoff event, discussing issues facing communities like Fort Wayne and Allen County as well as new trends in building mid-sized communities to ensure their success.

A typical comprehensive plan, according to the All In Allen website (allinallen.org), “outlines existing conditions, describes future goals and objectives for development, and includes an action plan on how to achieve these goals and objectives.”

The All In Allen Comprehensive Plan will address land use and development, housing and neighborhoods, economic development, transportation and mobility, public facilities, capital improvements and infrastructure and natural resources, parks and open space.

The All In Allen Plan will be completed across a seven-step planning process expected to take approximately 21 months, with anticipated completion in fall of 2021. The final comprehensive plan will need approval first from the plan commissions for Allen County and the city of Fort Wayne and ultimately from the County Commissioners and Fort Wayne’s City Council. The communities of Grabill, Huntertown, Monroeville and Woodburn will also be asked to adopt the plan.

Since this plan involves everyone who lives and works in Allen County, we think it is imperative that citizens participate in the process as much as possible. As with Plan-it Allen!, public input is critical. Attending Wednesday’s kickoff event would be a good first step.