Johnson County officials discuss small town plans


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The Johnson County Board of Supervisors has discussed the development of small towns in Iowa for years, and now they will seek to help one Iowa village.

A proposed amendment to the 2008 Johnson County Land-Use Plan, which would add the Sharon Center Village plan, was discussed at a meeting Thursday.

The plan will help define the boundaries of the village, as well as regulating growth and development. This is part of a series of small towns to be adopted into the land-use plan, said Josh Busard, a Johnson County assistant planner.

“Villages are recognized as one of our traditional growth areas,” he said. “We need to have a boundary of that village.”

The plan will allow the village to stay small, Busard said and will make sure development in the area is consistent with the county land-use plan.

“The village of Sharon Center desires to remain a small, rural community with rural values,” he said.

Sharon Center is a village in the southwestern part of Johnson County, which only has 96 residents, Busard said. The supervisors asked for feedback from residents through public meetings, and they are now prepared to complete the proposal.

“We like to work with the local residents to ensure that they’re on board,” he said. “We try to respect property owners’ boundaries as much as possible.”

Supervisor Chairwoman Janelle Rettig said landowners will not be forced to be included in the boundaries, though it may be beneficial for them.

“Without being in the village plan, your … only option is a farmstead split, which doesn’t give you a lot of options,” she said. “You aren’t required to do anything if you [don’t] want to.”

Sharon Center landowner John Bontrager, who was present at the meeting, said he wants to have his land included in the boundaries of the plan. Others’ land that is included in the plan will need to be consulted with before the plan is approved.

Sharon Center Mayor Clarence Leichty said that while the plan may be a good idea, he has some additional concerns. Because the plan would potentially increase expansion, Leichty was concerned about the condition of the roads near Sharon Center, especially the main road running through the town — Sharon Center Road.

“I feel very strongly about the roads, the infrastructure to Sharon Center,” he said. “They’re very dangerous, they’re out of date. Something needs to be looked at and corrected.”

Supervisor Rod Sullivan addressed some of Leichty's concerns, saying plans for a bridge replacement near the village have been moving forward. The roads, he said, are not so straightforward because improvements on Sharon Center Road could drive traffic away from other areas.

“There were a number of people that said ‘Yes, this road should be improved,’ ” he said. “Other people said, ‘I don’t want that.’ It was very divided. Whenever we talk about putting an improvement on a road we have that kind of debate.”

The amendment will be further discussed with members of the Planning and Zoning board at a later meeting to slightly change the boundaries of the plan.

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