LIMA — Small, incremental changes coupled with modest investments can make a fundamental difference in a community’s prosperity and growth, members of the Lima Housing Task Force were told Tuesday by a nationally recognized land-use planner.
The task force, meeting virtually, heard a presentation from Charles Marohn, a professional engineer and founder and president of Strong Towns.
Strong Towns, a not-for-profit organization based in Minnesota, “supports thousands of people across the United States and Canada who are advocating for a radically new way of thinking about the way we build our world,” according to the company’s website.
Marohn said that simply throwing money at a community is seldom the best way to achieve a revitalization throughout the assorted neighborhoods of a town or city. He recommended a more cost-effective approach.
“Do a hyper-intense analysis of how people are struggling to use the community as it’s currently built,” Marohn suggested. “Ask people where they are struggling and how you can address that. Ask those community members, ‘What is the smallest thing we can do to address that struggle’ and then do that thing. Do it now; don’t send it to some committee.
“Then repeat that approach over and over again.”
Mahron addressed how cities can maximize their ability to financially strengthen the community and improve citizens’ quality of life. He said it is vital that service and maintenance costs for neighborhoods to not exceed tax revenues derived from those areas.
It is also imperative, he said, that residents have easy and effective access to city goods and services.
“Cities need to allow the next increment of ‘growth by right,’” Mahron said. “By right means that when a resident comes to city hall with a permit application, he or she should walk out in an hour with a permit. It means the least amount of regulatory pressure possible.”
Mahron said it is essential that Lima “lower the bar of entry” and allow all residents to participate in a prosperous society.
The Lima Housing Task Force was created last December to gain a full understanding of the existing housing inventory in Lima, identify housing needs and to develop strategies to improve the quality and availability of housing in the city.
Task force chairwoman Sharetta Smith started Tuesday’s meeting by announcing that the group has had “some really good conversations and is starting to build some consensus” in achieving those identified goals.
The task force is looking at Lima’s housing situation with a goal to create a 10-year action plan to meet housing needs while improving the quality of life in Lima. More than three dozen community members — representing city government, private business and industry, financial institutions, the Downtown Lima Inc., Greater Lima Region and local chamber of commerce organizations — have participated in task force meetings.