'A historic evening'

Council approves comprehensive plan

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

By Frederic Pierce, Staff writer

It's official: The city of Syracuse knows what it wants to be when it grows up.

The Syracuse Common Council Monday unanimously approved the city's first comprehensive plan since 1919. The vote established a broad vision for Syracuse that was years in the making and kicked off an effort to develop the details needed to mesh the plan with reality.

"This plan represents the culmination of more than seven years of work by many groups of diverse citizens," said Councilor-at-Large Van Robinson, the project's driving force. "This is the first comprehensive plan for Syracuse in 85 years, and this is a historic evening."

About 40 people braved the weather to witness this history during an evening meeting at City Hall. Fourteen of them rose to speak before the vote. All of them endorsed the plan as a great first step, even though several warned it remained incomplete.

"The plan still does need quite a bit of work," said Mike Stanton of the Preservation Association of Central New York. "It needs content put into it. It needs the neighborhoods defined. If we stop now, we won't have a real comprehensive plan."

One speaker, Syracuse architect Bob Haley, suggested a more accurate name for the telephone-book-sized document might be "conceptual plan," because it does not contain extensive details on things such as zoning and building codes.

The plan's designers Monday freely acknowledged this. They see the project as setting a broad vision for the city and its neighborhoods. It then takes that vision and develops a set of policies, goals and recommended actions.

Laying out the specifics of a neighborhood's future, developing workable zoning guidelines, recommending detailed public projects or finding the investment needed to pay for it all could take until 2007, according to the approved plan.

The document calls for the creation of a land-use plan, area master plans and individual neighborhood plans - many of which exist - to be developed from the bottom up and incorporated into a citywide zoning update.

The key to making sure the plan is effective will be constant monitoring and enforcement, Robinson said.

That's likely to require the re-establishment of a potentially expensive city planning department, he acknowledged. The city shares planning staff with Onondaga County.

"This is just the beginning of a full-fledged program to carry us through for the next 30, 40 or 50 years," Robinson said.

The plan was developed by a committee of local professionals and community representatives, assisted by Clough, Harbour & Associates, which was paid about $150,000 for its services.

2005 The Post-Standard.