As part of an ongoing effort to garner feedback on its updates to the zoning code, the City of Fort Atkinson is holding a second public meeting, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the municipal building.

The meeting will focus on key policy decisions made in the draft zoning code, as well as measures such as parking, building design, landscaping and signage that have been addressed in the draft.

The update has been a multi-year effort to make Fort Atkinson’s zoning code more modern.

At the first public meeting, Mike Slavney, planning consultant from Vandewalle and Associates, emphasized the importance of the code update.

“This is our one chance in a generation to take a crack at making things better for people,” Slavney said.

Ben Rohr, also a community planning consultant, said these meetings are intended to get the city council and Plan Commission on board with the changes, because they ultimately will be the groups using and working with the new code.

“The city council and Plan Commission need to feel comfortable with decisions made in this document,” Rohr said. “We want to allow people to ask questions about each one of these decisions.”

While the focus is on the city staff and officials who will be working with the intricate details of the code, Rohr said, community input gets taken into account.

“It’s important for everyone to be involved,” Rohr said. “We want everyone to have a voice in the policy decisions that are made. Ultimately, it comes down to what city council and plan commission feel comfortable with. They’re the ones applying it; they’re in the leadership position to administer it. But everyone’s opinion will be heard.”

City Building Inspector Brian Juarez, who will be working intimately with the new code, said it’s important to get that community input because the code is hugely impactful on their lives in the city.

“It’s just good to have public input on all those things,” Juarez said. “We need to have as many people involved in something that impacts the community as we can get.”

This second meeting will be more interactive than the first, according to Rohr. He said each policy addressed will include a worksheet that allows people to express what they feel should be done, rather than the more formal presentation of the first meeting.

“We’re framing this meeting as an awareness, education, exposing them to a summarized version of these chapters. A question or two, and a worksheet to gather input from council members, Plan Commission, staff and members of the general public,” Rohr said. “It’s a little easier than just having a Q-and-A session where people don’t feel like they can get their opinion in.”

The first zoning update meeting Jan. 23 focused on the nuts and bolts of the code, spending a lot of time explaining the new zoning districts that have been proposed. Rohr said he was surprised by the level of community involvement at the first meeting.

“I’ve personally been involved with three or four of these rewrites; that was a pretty substantial public presence,” Rohr said.

In all reality, zoning isn’t the most interesting thing to people or they aren’t engaged in the subject. It’s a technical policy document; it’s hard to wrap your head around a 300-page document. We encourage as many people who would like to get involved to come.”

The third public meeting on the zoning update is scheduled for March 19 when the new zoning map is set to be discussed. The public hearing on the draft zoning ordinance will be held later in year.

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