Encouraging the construction of new houses in Fort Dodge should be a top priority of the local government, elected officials decided Monday afternoon.
''Right now, we have a housing issue,'' said Councilman Kim Alstott.
During a three-hour afternoon planning session, other council members and Mayor Matt Bemrich agreed that new housing is needed, thanks to the hundreds of jobs being created in the North Central Ag Industrial Park.
The next highest priority, enhancing recreation and entertainment options, spurred some debate, however. Bemrich said the possible construction of a new facility to replace the Fort Dodge Recreation Center at First Avenue South and 15th Street ought to be factor in the city's plan.
City Manager David Fierke said the local government's role in that project remains unknown.
The project's future may be tied to a proposed downtown street realignment that Councilman Mark Taylor referred to Monday as the ''crosstown disconnector.''
''They're not going to do any more planning until the city decides on the crosstown connector,'' Councilman Dave Flattery said of Recreation Center leaders. ''The downtown realignment is part of their planning process.''
Flattery said he believes downtown improvements should be at the heart of all strategic plans for the city.
''I feel that everything starts with the downtown,'' he said. ''To me, that's the initiative we have to start.''
Implementing the downtown master plan emerged as the third highest priority during the session.
Providing utilities and infrastructure needed for growth, ensuring that citizens are safe, and creating a community that is attractive to new businesses and residents rounded out the list of priorities.
Fierke and the city staff will now develop recommendations for implementing each of those priorities. According to Fierke, ways of measuring progress on each of the priorities will be established.
The elected officials developed that list of priorities during a session facilitated by Rick Brimeyer, the president of Brimeyer LLC in Ames. He has advised the city on planning and the implementation of lean government practices intended to weed out any unnecessary procedures in city operations.
Monday's session built upon the Envision 2030 document, which outlined a path for future growth in the community, and two previous strategic planning sessions conducted in 2007 and 2010. Public safety and infrastructure improvements were identified as the top priorities in past years.
Fierke said progress has been made in both of those areas.
''We were able to put together some reasonable steps and actually accomplished most of it,'' he said.
The expected influx of people coming to work at the Cargill and CJ Bio America plants in the North Central Ag Industrial Park pushed housing to the top of the list this year.
In a bid to spur new housing starts, the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance launched construction of four new houses in The Woodlands neighborhood on the city's northeast side this year. By selling those houses, the alliance hopes to show developers that there is a market for new homes in Fort Dodge.
Three specific strategies for improving housing were identified Monday. They are:
The housing incentives and infrastructure improvements would be targeted to what planners call ''infill development,'' which is essentially building on lots in existing neighborhoods.
Three specific initiatives were identified to improve recreation and entertainment. They are: