BEDFORD — The Bedford Plan Commission heard an overview of the Bedford Comprehensive Plan as it pertains to planning and zoning Tuesday during a special meeting at the StoneGate Arts and Education Center.

Patti Yount, managing director of business development and marketing for Lochmueller Group, which prepared the plan, presented the draft. Numbering more than 100 pages, the draft includes data on current population and population trends through 2045, workforce, housing, transportation, tourism and natural resources.

The plan
will be used by the city’s next administration and city council to guide development and long-range planning and budgeting for any projects that might address issues in the plan. In addition, the Plan Commission will use the plan to guide or amend its rules and policies.

Among the challenges the city may want to address is quality, affordable housing. According to the plan, the median home value in the city of Bedford in 2017 was $87,600, which was lower than in 2010 when the median home value was $101,759. The city has a larger proportion of housing valued below $100,000 than Lawrence County and Indiana.

Yount suggested if Bedford wants to attract and retain young, talented residents, it should look for ways to offer more housing between $100,000 and $199,999.

As an example, Yount said the city of Fort Wayne is offering tax incentives to housing developers. The reason, she said, is the city’s population isn’t sufficient to generate the tax revenue needed to fund its long-term infrastructure projects, so it is offering tax abatement to encourage housing development.

Looking at the population trends, Bedford has an older population, but that does not necessarily imply that it is an “aging” population. According to U.S. Census data from 2017, 26% of the city was 60 and older, but that is expected to drop to 17 % by 2045.

Working age adults (20 to 64) will make up about 52% of the city’s population in 2045. Most of this growth is in younger age groups from 20 to 44 while older working age groups are expected to drop by 10%. Retaining older workers is key, according to the plan, because they tend to be at the peak of their careers and have higher incomes, while also having more discretionary income as their children age out of their household. Those workers can help sustain local businesses through their spending patterns.

The previous comprehensive plan from 2010 was the foundation for the city’s Stellar Communities projects, which included building StoneGate, moving the Milwaukee Depot to downtown, building StoneCutters Place senior apartments, extending a pedestrian trail from Lincoln Avenue to connect to the downtown as well as new sidewalks around the downtown square.

Marla Jones, the city’s business and community development director, pointed out this plan will be far different from the 2010 plan.

“This plan doesn’t come with a bundle of money for projects,” she said. “It will have to be taken piece by piece to plan, find the funding and then execute.”

Plan Commission member Ron Orman asked if the city carried any debt from the Stellar projects, which wrapped up this year. Mayor Shawna Girgis said funds were secured for all projects through different state agencies except for StoneGate Arts & Education Center. The city’s Redevelopment Commission secured a low-interest loan from the United States Department of Agriculture for the project. The RDC makes the loan payments through money captured from the city’s Tax Increment Financing district.

Girgis said Stellar and other projects the city completed that were part of the city’s first two applications have resulted in an investment of $38 million in the city. Some of those projects include the Lincoln Avenue roundabout, stormwater project and renovation of the old Stalker school into affordable housing.

While the plan includes a long list of recommendations, it’s not always a clear path to achieve them. Plan Commission member Steve Kimbley said he found lots of interesting data in the plan.

“What jumped out at me the most was 94% of those surveyed said the city should attract and retain younger workers, but there’s nothing to identify what these people want in the city to pull them in,” he said.

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