Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Plan of Action: Progress finally made on Harrisburg’s comprehensive plan.

Aerial view of Harrisburg. Photo by Dani Fresh

Harrisburg’s long-delayed comprehensive plan appears to be back on track, as the city’s Planning Commission last night agreed on a draft plan and set forth a path for final approval.

The commission unanimously opted for a draft submitted by the Office for Planning and Architecture, a city-based firm headed by urban design consultant Bret Peters.

In May 2015, the city hired Peters for $200,000 to create a comprehensive plan, which cities use as frameworks to guide policy, ranging widely to include everything from land use to recreation. Plans typically have a shelf life of only 10 to 15 years, though Harrisburg’s had not been redrafted in some four decades.

Originally, the city expected its plan to be finished in about 10 months. However, a dispute with Peters over the editing process, communication and, especially, pay, led to a long delay.

At one point earlier this year, the city and Peters parted company after Peters demanded more money to complete the project.

That holdup ended last evening with the commission’s decision to go with Peters’ draft. Commission members said they would make the draft public both online and in hard copy by Nov. 15, with a public hearing slated for Jan. 10.

Following the hearing, the commission may make additional changes based on public input. It then must approve the final draft before submitting it to City Council for its approval.

Several city officials attended the commission meeting and seemed relieved that the process had new momentum.

“That’s why I’m here tonight,” said council President Wanda Williams. “They want to know, ‘Where is the comprehensive plan?’ Thank you for finally moving ahead.”

Mayor Eric Papenfuse said the city has not paid Peters more money than the contract allows and would not do so. Nonetheless, he echoed Williams’ sentiments.

“At least we’re moving the process forward,” he said. “So, it’s positive in that way.”

Continue Reading