Petersburg will be hiring help for a revision of its comprehensive plan, a document that considers land use and future needs in the community. Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday approved a request for proposals for consulting companies willing to do that work.
A Request For Proposals drafted by borough staff seeks a company to do a revision for Petersburg’s 2000 planning document. The RFP calls for study of waterfront land in the community, harbor facilities, zoning throughout the borough, housing, the visitor industry and quality of life here.

Assembly member Bob Lynn didn’t like some of the aspects of the RFP. One area of concern was for borough selection of state land. Petersburg has a committee tasked with recommending land for selection and Lynn did not want an outside consultant doing that work. “And I think that could be much better done locally. I think we know what we have. I think we have the resources in the staff. I think we could do it. Or if we needed to hire someone from the community, I think there’s quite a few people around here that could do that job. I’d like to see the money stay in the community, rather than go out, that one piece.”

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht drafted the RFP and said the land selection portion could help Petersburg’s committee. “What was in the RFP, what was meant to be in the RFP, was to say on the land selection side, we might wanna hold off selecting land, since the state doesn’t really put a hard fast deadline on that, until we actually get the comp plan done, so that the data from that could be used to help the land selection committee make those recommendations to the assembly.”

The community’s most recent plan was completed in 2000 after more than two years of public hearings and revisions by the planning and zoning commission and Petersburg’s city council. Much of that debate focused on zoning for the Sandy Beach area and municipal land that has yet to be developed.

John Havrilek faulted the community’s 2000 plan and did not want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a similar document. “The thing that I’m worried about is you know we’ve got, talking 300 thousand (dollars) for this. That would be for this about 10-thousand dollars a page that would come from some supervisor consultant facilitator whatever. That seems kind of spendy to me. The other thing is, for 300-thousand that’s a heck of a lot we could put into our police station, hospital, schools.”

The borough plans to pay for the comprehensive plan with the state grant money totalling 600-thousand dollars that comes with borough formation.

The Petersburg Economic Development Council’s Liz Cabrera did not think the 2000 plan should be an example of what a comprehensive plan could be. “One of the reasons that I’m excited about doing a comprehensive plan is because I like a plan we could actually use. The one that we have I don’t think is particularly useful.”

Cabrera used the example of housing, noting the 2000 plan only recommended doing a study of housing needs in the community. She thought a detailed housing review was worth including in the revision. “You know in my work I hear from employers who say, and individuals say that they have a hard time finding housing for their employees, they have a hard time finding especially rental housing that’s affordable for people who are entry level in our community. So is that holding back business expansion? Well, that’s a very good question. So I hear anecdotally from individuals that maybe it’s an issue. But community-wide, is it an issue? And that’s what someone could help us figure out. And also, what would the community accept as far as doing something about it.”

However, assembly member Lynn wanted to prioritize the most important parts of the plan in case the consultants price tag was more than expected. “We didn’t do that. We’ve come forward with all these things as a minimum I think we need to readjust this such that we prioritize it to what we really want and allow the potential bidder to put some costs on it so we have some choices. Otherwise we’re gonna sit here as a group, I believe, and it’s going to be an all or nothing issue.”

The plan could also include a master plan for Petersburg’s harbors with an inventory of current docks and floats and a moorage rate study. That was not a part of the city of Petersburg’s 2000 plan. Harbormaster Glorianne Wollen did not want the harbors left out of the latest revision. “We need this so bad. The last comprehensive look we had for our harbors, which we use daily, for grant funding, for doing battle with the state on all sorts of things, was done in 1996, a look at our facility. So it’s forever ago. And I just really, really plead with you to move forward on this process.”

The assembly voted to make changes to the RFP to make it clear that the consultant would be a facilitator of the planning process and synthesize information from local public meetings and input. Assembly members then approved the RFP by a 6-1 vote with only John Havrilek voting against it. The work will be advertised this summer and could be awarded by the assembly in August. Under that schedule, a draft plan could be out for review by next spring.