- Editor’s note: The Road Forward is a series of stories on the Brookfield Township Comprehensive Plan. In this story, we will introduce the plan, tell what it is and let the trustees express what the plan means to them. In future stories, News On the Green will write about specific issues addressed in the plan. Part of the plan can be read on the township’s web site.
The Brookfield Trustees could do nothing.
They could sit back and manage the tax money, oversee the township services already in place, watch as businesses come and go, and let others worry about water and sewer lines and housing.
“The act of doing nothing is going to get us the results we’ve experienced over the past 20, 30 years,” said Trustee Ron Haun, who has been in office for 10 years. “The act of doing nothing has been very detrimental to our community.”
The township has seen more businesses go than come. Houses have gone vacant and more are transitioning from owner-occupied to rental. The population is declining and aging, which will make it more of a burden on those who stay here to pay for services.
Those trends are “very, very scary,” Haun said. Doing nothing is not an option, he said.
That’s why the township undertook the creation of a comprehensive plan, which was completed last summer.
The plan, replacing one from 2000, starts with an examination of what is here now.
The plan includes a list of soil types and their suitability for building and septic absorption fields; soil depth to bedrock, another development suitability indicator; natural water resources and wetlands; topography; road system; utilities; population and household demographics; housing; economic conditions; and land use.
Then, the plan filters comments from public meetings to establish where residents want the township to be, and sets goals and objectives to work toward that vision.
“It gives you a framework for the future of the community,” Haun said. “It creates a vision for the community.”
The plan, which was prepared by Strategen LLC and Thrasher Group Inc. with help from the Trumbull County Planning Commission, is based on realistic data and “not pie in the sky stuff,” he said.
“This is basically what we should do as trustees,” Haun said.
“It’s really important for the township to have direction and have a road map for the township,” said Trustee Gary Lees. “The comprehensive plan is so vital for the township.”
Although the trustees initiated the process of creating the plan and participated in it, they did not guide it, Haun said.
“It’s not what I want and not what you want,” he said. “It’s what the community wants.”
What does the community want? According to the plan, it wants to maintain rural and historic areas, while attracting new business and residential development. It wants more public water and sewer service, which will help with development. It wants a better school system and less crime. It wants stronger ties between existing businesses. It wants a township with curb appeal, a strong housing stock, better roads and walking and biking opportunities.
Not everyone in the township will agree on every point, which was made clear when voters defeated a zoning resolution in the November election. Zoning was a plan recommendation.
The lack of zoning makes it harder to attract developers because their investment has less protection, officials and zoning proponents said.
Referring to the property of the former Valley View Department Store, Haun said, “It’s going to be hard to (redevelop) without zoning.”
Trustees will have to look at the non-zoning-related goals and recommendations first, he said.
However, there is a new trustee to be considered. Dan Suttles, who assumed his duties Jan. 1, said he had little knowledge of the plan prior to taking office, and has not read it.
“That’s something I definitely am going to read through,” he said. “I definitely need to research that.”
Haun and Lees both spoke of sitting down with Suttles to discuss the plan and come up with a list of implementation priorities. Haun said he hopes Suttles will embrace the plan.
“Nothing will work with pointing fingers or misdirection,” Lees said. “We will need to work together.”
The previous plan resulted in expansion of sewer service and street lighting, things that take time to bring about, Lees said.
“This one has really been put together for infrastructure,” Lees said, referring to utilities and roads. “That’s why all three of us need to put our minds together and put our priorities together.”
Projects the township undertakes should address objectives in the plan, Haun said.
Some projects will cost little or no money, Haun said, noting the spreading of woods chips on trails at the township park – a project that supports a plan recommendation to expand use of the park – was done with township labor and donated material.