Peabody City Clerk/Administrator and Peabody Main Street board member
When the residents of Peabody opened their utility bills in February, they noticed something extra. Folded up with the normal bill was a two-page, three-part questionnaire. By filling it out and returning it to the city office, residents helped shape Peabody’s future.
The questionnaires let the city know about residents’ opinions, issues, and concerns. This input was used to help develop Peabody Comprehensive Plan. Comprehensive plans are documents that allow cities to set goals for the next 10 or 20 years and create policies to reach them.
So, in a way, by filling out the questionnaire, Peabody residents had the opportunity to cast a ballot for what type of future they would like to have.
Peabody enlisted a group of graduate students in Kansas State University’s Regional and Community Planning program to help create their comprehensive plan. These students have spent the past two years studying community planning. They started working on Peabody’s comprehensive plan in January with help from me, Main Street Association Director Kristen Hooper, and Peabody City Council.
The students gathered data to prepare background information needed to forecast Peabody’s future, and they needed input from Peabody residents. Public input is crucial to making good comprehensive plans and letting cities know what the public wants for its future.
In order to find out what issues are important to Peabody residents, the students held a focus group meeting Jan. 30. Sixteen Peabody residents representing diverse groups and interests, were asked a series of questions about the city. Several topics were covered; some of which included the economy, housing, parks, the downtown district, Peabody’s strengths, and its challenges.
Participants were given the opportunity to vote on concerns and issues they raised as a group to help pinpoint Peabody’s most important concerns. This information was used to create the questionnaire that was distributed to all residential utility customers in February. All of the questionnaire responses were recorded, and the information was used to highlight the important issues to include in the city’s comprehensive plan.
For those citizens interested in the process, the student group gave a presentation March 12 at a special council session. The meeting was open to the public.
Topics included Peabody’s focus group results, its population trends, and details on an upcoming housing survey. Information and documents, including the focus group results and the questionnaire, also are available on the city’s web site at
The student group gave a final presentation May 7. This presentation included a review of the completed comprehensive plan and recommendations for the future. One of the first tasks faced by the city was to re-establish a Peabody Planning Commission so that the comprehensive plan could be put into action, reviewed annually, and updated as necessary in the years ahead.
At the end of May, Peabody City Council sent out letters of invitation to selected individuals who had expressed an interest in serving as members of a planning commission.
By the end of June, the city council announced seven formal appointments to the Peabody Planning Commission, and on July 21, the newly re-established commission held its first meeting. After electing officers, planning commission members focused their attention on updating the commission by-laws, and the ordinance that pertains to the re-establishment of the commission. Both of these documents should be available for presentation to the city council for review and approval by the end of September.
The planning commission has established a timeline that includes meetings approximately every two weeks for the remainder of 2008 so they might review and update zoning regulations. By the beginning of 2009, it is the commission’s goal to have all zoning regulations in place so that focus can be directed toward the implementation of some (14) recommendations made as part of the comprehensive plan.
These recommendations will take several years to implement, and will require the coordination of multiple groups and organizations within the community.
A few of the more important projects will include sidewalk repairs and upgrades, expansion and enhancement of existing parks, future use and development of Peabody Industrial Park, and maintaining and improving housing developments within the community.
We are truly excited about the blueprint that we now have available in the form of a current comprehensive plan. It is our sincere hope and desire that this tool will help take Peabody into the next generation, and beyond.