Orange Park approves long-range plan to base growth on theme-based goals

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ORANGE PARK – The town council approved a strategic plan and vision that will shape the town’s direction 20 years into the future.

A months-long visioning process came to a successful conclusion Tuesday night, Aug. 4, after the council approved a broad future-focused plan designed by its visioning committee. Haskell’s Chris Flagg served as the lead on this project after being hired by the town to steer the committee toward an end goal. He and committee member Heather Neville presented their strategic plan and vision.

“We love the term reimagine and that’s what you all have helped us do,” Flagg said. “And when I say, ‘you all,’ I mean the community that has helped us throughout and you [town council] who have supported us throughout.”

Flagg said the plan was created after 20 days of public meetings spread over multiple months, five deliverable reports and three online surveys. Neville discussed the importance of the plan and how the work is far from done. She explained with planning and informing complete, it’s up to the town council to fund and execute the strategies outlined in the plan.

“We have provided a vision plan that’s reflective of the community...so now it’s time for you to adopt the vision plan itself,” Neville said. “That is a five-volume book, all available on the visioning website...and the purpose for the plan from here on out is [to recognize that] it’s an ongoing implementation project.”

A dedicated funding strategy will need to be made, capital projects and operational improvements will need to be approved and codes and regulations updated for everything to work smoothly, Neville said.

The council was presented with three options Tuesday night: a “do nothing” option, a “transportation corridor redevelopment” option that would prioritize the town’s main thru roads and a “vision theme-based goals town side” option. The third option was the one recommended by the visioning committee.

It includes all of the goals of the second option, which sees local businesses and thoroughfare affairs improved, as well as all of the projects meant to enhance residential parts of the town as well. This includes goals like creating a mobility plan, establishing walkable commerce and recreation routes and addressing neighborhood sustainability including flooding and connectivity greenways.

Neville said the pros of the third option were that it meets the town’s mission and aligns with identified survey results. The cons were that the list of goals was broader and that it came with higher costs and additional project management needs.

“Out of the three processes approached, the third one will hit a home run for everyone but will be something to contemplate as far as our budget [goes] and [as far as determining] how to plan for implementation funding going forward,” Neville said.

The town council approved the third option and the visioning plan with a 4-0 vote.

In other business, the town is set to receive over $700,000 in CARES Act funding that will go toward retrofitting town facilities to be more COVID-19 safe. This includes hands-free sinks, toilets and toilet dispensers, automatic-opening doors and sanitization stations.

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