Don Smith served on La Crescent’s Planning Commission for 18 years before stepping down earlier this year.
For much of that time, he was the commission’s chairman and he oversaw the implementation of many plans to improve the city’s infrastructure and appeal.
At last week’s La Crescent City Council meeting, Smith reflected back on his time on the commission and drew some conclusions from his experience working with the city.
“I might be most proud of working to enhance relationships with agencies, legislators and municipalities,” Smith said, reading from prepared remarks.
Those relationships have not always been easy but have helped the city gain funding and cooperation on vital projects, according to Smith.
“Often professional relationships have allowed La Crescent to know and apply for funding from grants and special purpose funds,” he said. “And while sometimes adversarial, as in achieving the provision of future bicycle accommodation on the Dresbach Bridge, if done professionally they have enhanced not destroyed relationships.”
Smith continued, “The DOT (department of transportation) indicated efforts on the Dresbach Bridge caused internal changes that made future bridge projects more successful such as the planning for the Winona Interstate Bridge to include biking and walking from the beginning.”
Smith said his time serving on the commission had shown home the importance of planning for the future. Staff at city hall are stretched thin, leaving them with little time to dedicate to long-term planning, underlining the importance of the planning commission.
Smith said the city should avoid deviating from its comprehensive plan.
“If proposed actions are inconsistent with the comprehensive plans that were created through community involvement then changes must require some form of community process,” he said. “No short cuts. The Plan is the boss.”
For the future, Smith urged the city to focus on bringing more housing to La Crescent, including in the downtown, and a focus on an “image plan” to create a consistent message that can be used to sell the city.
In conclusion, Smith said, “La Crescent will, because of geography, always be a community ‘apart’ not joined by strip malls or commercial enterprises with the neighboring community. A special place. A place of our making.”
Jerry Steffes has taken over from Smith as the new chairman of the planning commission.