Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

What’s the Plan? After much delay, city officials lay out timeline to complete comprehensive plan

photo of all Harrisburg City Council members.

Harrisburg City Council held a public workshop on the Harrisburg Comprehensive Plan last night.

After a thrown-out consultant contract and more than a year of delay, city officials have laid out a timeline to get Harrisburg’s comprehensive plan to the finish line.

At last night’s public workshop, city officials said a draft of the document will be released for public comment in June. They expect the final version to be ready in November.

City Council members spent much of the three-hour meeting teasing out how a $200,000 consultant’s contract, which still has not yielded a draft document, became so held up and behind schedule.

After the city did not receive a final comprehensive plan draft by a March 2016 deadline, communication between city officials and urban design consultant Bret Peters slowly broke down, ending with the city terminating Peters’ contract, said city officials.

Consultant Bret Peters addresses city officials, council and residents.

After a negotiation process, the city made a final offer for Peters to complete the project, said City Solicitor Neil Grover. With no response, the city terminated the contract, Grover said.

“[His] demand was for more money,” he said. “From a taxpayer point of view, we cannot do that.”

So far, the city has paid Peters $185,000 of its $210,000 budget for the comprehensive plan. Peters told council that the city owes him at least $30,000 more for work already completed.

However, city officials said Peters did not deliver a complete, 10-chapter draft to them. The city requested “concise informative chapters” with goals and action steps, said Planning Director Geoffrey Knight.

The administration gave council members copies of the current comprehensive plan draft. The incomplete document, still missing chapters, was rife with highlights, question marks and other notes from the Planning Bureau, council members remarked.

City Councilman Cornelius Johnson called the document “incomplete.”

“[There are] sections that are just one-liners right now,” he said.

Peters gave council a stapled document of reasons explaining why his team’s work was not complete by last year’s deadline.

When council members asked Peters about the incomplete documents and the missed deadline, he placed blame on the city. He cited everything from a limited budget, bad communication with officials and the bureau’s limited capacity.

Members of the Planning Commission, a seven-person volunteer board, accepted part of the responsibility for the delayed project and questioned why Peters did not come to the commission’s monthly public meetings with his documents if he encountered difficulty with city officials.

However, as it stands, the city still needs to complete three chapters and polish up the chapters submitted by the consultant.

The city turned to two consultants to complete the chapter on housing and the chapter on energy and utilities. These consultants were sub-contractors who worked with Peters. Director of Community and Economic Development Jackie Parker will complete the economic development chapter.

City officials plan to release a complete draft to the public in early June to receive public feedback. Three feedback sessions are slated for this public comment period. After incorporating feedback from the public and the Planning Commission, city officials plan to have a final draft for a City Council vote in November.

Author: Danielle Roth

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