Lawrence County comprehensive plan process stalled

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the presentation of the draft Lawrence County Comprehensive plan. County officials hope to release the plan in July. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD — The presentation of the draft document of Lawrence County’s Comprehensive plan has largely stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the final document hinges on holding public meetings, which may or may not be possible in the traditional format.

Lawrence County Planning and Zoning Administrator Amber Vogt discussed next steps amidst the COVID-19 precautions for proper public engagement at the May 12 meeting of the Lawrence County Commission.

“The timeline, obviously, we’re a little bit behind with everything going on,” said Vogt. “We have not been able to hold the public meetings, like we were hoping to.”

Vogt said Ali DeMersseman of Black Hills Council of Local Governments is hoping to have a draft plan for the county commissioners to view within the next couple of weeks.

Vogt said that public input for the draft document development has included community stakeholder meetings, a survey, and winter visioning meetings.

“Now we will be ready to do the draft plan open houses,” Vogt said, adding that themes, visions, and focus areas derived from the meetings have been incorporated into the draft document, as well as plan purposes.

The purpose of the comprehensive plan is to provide a framework to guide Lawrence County’s future growth and development. The four focus, or vision, areas include: custom and culture; natural resources, services, and amenities; coordinated growth and development; and economic opportunity.

“The question has come up, with this plan, obviously, with COVID-19, it changes what our plan originally was, which was to hold open houses and have people come to them,” Vogt said. “At Planning and Zoning, a thought process that had come up is she

(DeMersseman) would like to post some GoToMeetings for those people who can’t get out of the house to still allow them to view the document, ask her questions, anything like that, and, then, depending on what happens here, I think the plan would be, hopefully by July we can have some smaller setting meetings for people to come to view the document and ask questions and go through the draft, and what not, so we’re just going to have to set it up a little bit differently, depending on the July time period and what is transpiring with everything. We might have to do small meetings, 10 people or less. We’re not sure. We might have to have multiple meetings, where we just would’ve only had one or two. Now, we might have to have six or seven. So that might change the process a little bit.”

Vogt said the comprehensive plan was budgeted for 2020, so the ultimate goal is to approve the document by December.

“That’s still the goal. We were just hoping to be done by July, August,” she said. “Now, it’ll probably be October, November, December.”

Commission Chairman Brandon Flanagan asked if the GoToMeetings will accommodate the business accompanying the open house meetings to view the draft document.

“It’s basically reviewing the document and getting input on what their thoughts are of the document,” Vogt said. “So we should be able to do something similar to this, where we could show the document and people could read and see what they think.”

The hope would be to send the draft document out to a previously generated email list so participants could have the word document to view.

“Then invite them to the meeting to ask her questions, if they have any,” Vogt said.

Flanagan said he likes the GoToMeeting option, but that there are a handful of stakeholders that would like to weigh in in person.

“The goal would be to have similar locations like we did before,” Vogt said. “We might just have to cap it at 10, so you need to let us know if you’re attending. There’s going to be some different things like that. We just have to wait and see. But she’s thinking not until July, get the draft to the board, let them review it. For the process, until we have those open houses, we really can’t move to the next step, anyway.”

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