Derby's long-range plan gets underway

Lavonda Norrod discusses civic issues with Robert Mendoza, the city’s director of public works. Norrod, a former Rose Hill resident who has lived here since last fall, says she’s glad Derby is taking a look at what it could be in the future. Being a self-contained city with a variety of resources is an important trait for her.

For new Derby resident Lavonda Norrod, spending time visiting about what the city’s future could be was an occasion well spent.

“It was very interesting,” she said after viewing display boards and talking with city and planning officials at the first Vision Derby 2040 gathering, which was held on May 21 at The Venue. “A city this size needs to focus that far in advance.”

Norrod, who moved to Derby in October after living for 39 years in Rose Hill, said she’s pleased with the city and its resources.

“One of the reasons I moved here is that you have everything you need,” said the civil service retiree. “I’m pretty happy so far.”

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. Things change, and needs and wants shift – and that’s one of the many reasons why it’s necessary to put down what the future could and should be. That’s what planners such as Marty Shukert, principal with the Omaha-based firm of RDG Planning and Design, stress.

“One of our jobs is to take ideas and recommendations and pull them together in a unified vision,” he said. There are common themes that can be connected.”

Shukert and his firm are becoming more familiar with Derby as it handled the K-15 Corridor Plan along with work on the Walkability Study.

Vision Derby is different from the typical city five-year plan, which usually revolves around capital improvement projects.

In addition, a long-term plan such as this often has an influence for an even longer term, such as 40 years, he said, so it can really set the stage for several generations.

Shukert said he and his team are interested in hearing about all sorts of suggestions, including specific ones.

One precise idea Shukert received had to do with developing a new downtown district along Madison between K-15 and Woodlawn.

“That was a really intriguing idea,” he said. “I don’t know how feasible it is, but it’s interesting.”

Variety of suggestions

Despite its size of almost 25,000 people, Derby doesn’t have a standard downtown the way a city such as Newton does. But that’s not uncommon, Shukert said, for cities that really started growing after World War II and were spurred by the automobile and suburban housing.

At this event, display boards dealt with a variety of subjects, such as housing, parks, transportation, infrastructure and related subjects.

Attendees put colored post-it notes with their comments on the boards.

Among the suggestions: enlist more young people in the planning process, more public transit, allow golf carts on streets, a bridge at 95th Street, a teen center, market Derby as a corporate headquarters, more affordable senior housing, a big park on the north side, a mental health care center and connect the parks.

There also were concerns, such as “blight in the older neighborhoods.”

Del del Pino, who has lived here since 1977, believes one of the major challenges is the K-15 area.

“I realize it’s an older part of town,” he said. “We have a beautiful thing on Rock Road, but there’s a lot of population that lives on the west and south side. Let’s not forget K-15 is a well-traveled road so it has great exposure for the towns south of here and Wichita.”

The separate, completed K-15 study will be incorporated into the Vision Derby 2040 plan.

He said that’s fine, but wants to ensure that the recommendations in the K-15 plan are acted on.

Overall, del Pino is pleased with the city’s growth.

“I remember when Derby was a one-traffic-light town with a flashing red light at Madison and K-15,” he said. “Now all these traffic lights are a good sign of growth.”

A retiree, del Pino also would like to see more young people, especially people in their 20s and 30s, involved in this process.

He lamented that they will be the most affected by it, but they’re also at the stage in their lives where they’re often too busy for such endeavors.

While RDG has done these types of studies for other cities, no two are alike, said Charlie Cowell, an urban planner 

with the firm.

“Every community is different and every community has a different character,” he said.

Residents can expect to hear and see more about the long-range plan during the next nine to 12 months.

Officials plan to go to several events during the summer, including the National Night Out, in order to meet with citizens and get their suggestions.

“These first two months are about hearing from as many people as possible,” he said. “It’s important that we capture the input.”

City Planner Justin Givens agreed that comments are vital.

“We need citizen participation,” he said.

The point is to explore what people want Derby to be in the future, he said.

For more information and to take the survey, go to Paper copies also are available at City Hall.