LONG BEACH - Since her arrival in October, Long Beach Community Development Director Kaye Simonson has compiled an existing conditions report detailing the city's population, roads, residences, available emergency services and other amenities for the proposed Long Beach Comprehensive Plan.

Throughout the passing months, Simonson has also attended public meetings with the city council and steering committees to present diagrams of future possibilities and gain residents' and business owners' input. Last Wednesday's public meeting was no different - city officials and community members gathered at Long Beach City Hall to learn about the director's latest ideas for commercial, residential and recreational development.

"We are working toward a final draft with a very aggressive schedule of goals and strategies," explains Simonson. "But right now, our number one goal is to inform."

With hopes of encouraging a healthy town center with heritage and a diverse and year-round economy, various additions are included in the city's potential plans. Three areas on the west side of Long Beach would be dedicated to specifically resort area and five areas would be selected for tourist amenities.

While the Discovery Trail already exists on the west side of the city, future plans may include trail connections that would extend in sections to a nature boardwalk on the east side of town. Residents near Pioneer Road could see more neighborhood retail spaces and residents south of Sid Snyder Drive would find themselves among a designated gateway area.

Other future possibilities include a civic center for community events, swimming access at Breaker Lake at the north end of town, kayaking access at Tinker Lake, space for healthcare and other essential services, improved telecommunications and a new park on the east end of 17th Street South.

"In terms of land use, we really tried to limit the impact on existing areas," says Simonson. "We're setting aside land for high density residences and creating framework to address future needs for lower income housing."

While a zoning review is scheduled to come later, Simonson has mapped out existing zones and current potential plans include several zone changes across the city. Southeast single-family residential zones could become high residential areas. The single-family residences in downtown Long Beach could be changed into parks, recreation or public zones, and downtown's commercial district would be altered to a residential commercial zone. At the north end of Long Beach, single-family areas and commercial districts could become high-density residential zones.

"It's big, it's massive, and we're not doing enough workshops to work through it," says Long Beach City Council Member Betty Ahern. "We're not letting the public know the massiveness of what is going on."

"Some of the proposed changes include commercial areas that would be changed to mixed use zoning," explains Dale Jacobson, a Long Beach resident and business owner who fears that the city's proposed plan may devalue his property through zoning changes. "The problem is, if I'm in a mixed use area, how will that affect the sale of my property down the road? Does the zoning stay with my property or will it change with whoever owns it? How will the neighbors feel - will they decide against my business? Some things just aren't clear, they still need to finalize the comprehensive plan's wording."

With opportunities for the public to provide input, plans in the project can still be negotiated until a final draft is presented in mid-May.

If approved by the planning commission and Long Beach City Council, the comprehensive plan could provide consistency when reviewing development, planning future activities and setting funding priorities.

Plans can be viewed by the public at the Long Beach City Hall at 115 Bolstad West in Long Beach.

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