The Wichita city council has adopted a plan to help guide future development and projects to eliminate blight in neighborhoods across the city.
The plan is called Wichita: Places for People, and it was created by an urban infill advisory committee that held meetings, workshops and discussions over the past two years. The plan focuses on a 62-square-mile area within a three-mile radius of the city’s downtown core area, so it covers an area from 29th Street North to 31st Street South, between Ridge Road and Rock Road. The Gould Evans consulting firm of Kansas City worked with the committee in a series of eleven meetings that included three public engagement sessions.
Ann Fox, executive director of Habitat For Humanity, served on the committee and she called the plan a framework to address areas of blight and decline, and it allows for a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach.
Some residents raised concerns with the city council that the plan would lead to wholesale zoning changes, but city manager Robert Layton said specific projects would still need to go through the city council. Layton said the plan is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and what may be appropriate in one neighborhood may not be appropriate in another. He said it would be a process where the city would go to different parts of the community to talk about specific projects, asking the questions “Are we getting it right? How would you like to see your neighborhood change?” and the discussion would involve different tools including possible zoning changes.
City council member James Clendenin served on the committee that drafted the plan and he said one goal is to be friendlier to developers who want to fix up neighborhoods, but also to be friendly to neighborhoods. He said “we’re going to continue to listen and make sure that we’re doing things in a way that works for everybody.” Mayor Jeff Longwell stressed that the plan does not call for zoning changes and it does not change the zoning codes for the city.
The city council voted unanimously this week to adopt the plan as an amendment to the city’s existing Comprehensive Plan, also called the Community Investments Plan, which was adopted in 2015.