Gunnison City leadership considers partnering with BYU to save money on new general plan with help from students
By Robert Stevens
GUNNISON—Gunnison City has a small window of time to decide if they want to partner with BYU to save thousands of dollars to create a new general plan.
The topic was broached during the most recent meeting of the Gunnison City Council on Wednesday, April 2.
Attending the meeting was Travis Kyhl, a representative of the Six County Association of Governments, who Gunnison Mayor Lori Nay contacted while looking into options for creating the city’s new general plan, or “comprehensive plan” as they are sometimes referred to.
The new general plan, which is long overdue for a revamp, is meant to encompass business, housing, economy, recreation and nearly every other aspect of life and municipal government in Gunnison City.
“We are glad to be able to help with this,” said Kyhl to the council. “We are an extension of you, and we want to help in any way we can.”
Kyhl explained there are a number of ways a city can update or create a general plan, including hiring a consultant (which he says costs upwards of $50,000 or more), doing it all in-house, or a combination of the two.
For the meeting last week, he brought with him Michael Clay, professor of urban planning at BYU, and several of Clay’s students to discuss an option that he said could get the city a whole lot of bang for their planning buck.
Clay and his students are part of a BYU partnership with Envision Utah, an acclaimed planning and growth co-operative launched in 1997 with the goal of keeping “Utah beautiful, prosperous, healthy, and neighborly for future generations.”
The program is a less expensive alternative to paying $50,000 to create the city plan. The cost of the program is reduced by using students who participate in the program for an educational credit experience in the planning fields.
The BYU-based program would still cost $15,000, but Kyhl said that he could help the city fund half of that amount through the Permanent Community Impact Board (CIB), which he said was a “sure thing.”
The city would have to get on board with the student-driven planning effort before the end of May, because the planning cycle would go from July 1 – Dec. 31, said Clay, but if they do choose to participate, they would get half of his class—which amounts to 10-12 students—putting in from 120-240 hours of work on the project each.
The project would take approximately six months of work, said Clay, and the only reason they wouldn’t have the entire class involved is because the town of Mona had just signed on to the program for its own planning assistance.
“We would inventory every manhole, road, stop sign and pothole in the entire town in the process,” Clay said. “We would be all over the place, making sure every aspect of the plan suits your needs.”
The group would leave no stone unturned in the planning—which includes community surveys to get public opinion, something many cities don’t do when they make their general plans.
Kyhl told the council that the inventory the BYU group would do alone would be worth the $7500 they would be on the hook for after he got them lined up with the CIB to fund the other $7500.
Clay told the council in the process of creating the plan they could even put emphasis on two items of particular interest to the city—annexation and housing market analysis.
Clay and his students have already helped Manti City craft a general plan in 2015. “I spoke with Kent Barton from Manti City,” Nay told Clay and his students. “He spoke very highly of your program and said he could not recommend it enough.”
Kyhl said there were other benefits to getting an up-to-date general plan in place, not the least of which was that the CIB was more likely to fund future projects in the community if they see a city government has been pro-active about planning for the future and setting a current general plan in stone.
Nay and the council told Kyhl and Clay they would be able to make a decision over the next two weeks, and get back to them soon.