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Nixa 2045 taking shape through public feedback

Comprehensive plan looks to add workforce housing and amenities

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Planning typically begins with gathering information, and that’s the approach the city of Nixa is taking as it embarks on its next comprehensive plan.

Titled Nixa 2045, the plan is being designed to guide the city through its next two decades upon its adoption by Nixa City Council.

As details of the plan come into focus and public input is provided, themes are emerging – like the need for workforce housing, the desire for parks and other public amenities and the wish to attract business and industry so residents do not have to leave the city for employment.

The information-gathering effort began with an online survey that kicked off in December. Simultaneously, Nixa residents were invited to serve on the Community Stakeholder Committee, which will conclude its meetings in May.

Another part of the info-gathering process was a March virtual open house to solicit feedback on topics like land use and development, transportation, placemaking, green spaces and community health, and the economy.

Additionally, a pop-up event was held March 16 as part of the Nixpo Business Showcase, an annual event of the Nixa Chamber of Commerce, at Nixa High School. There, maps were on display to show future development areas, and participants could use sticky notes to add their ideas into the mix.

The plan is expected to be finalized by late summer. The cost of the contract with Olsson Inc. for consulting and for drafting the plan is $150,000, approved by Nixa City Council in June 2023.

Scott Godbey, the city’s director of planning and development, is the city’s point person for the plan. He said listening to the community is a way of building consensus on what growth should look like while preserving the city’s character and culture.

Mayor Jarad Giddens, in a video posted to the city’s website for Nixa 2045, said the long-term plan and its goals is the community’s most important planning tool.

“Growth is inevitable for Nixa, but it shouldn’t happen in a haphazard manner,” he said. “Healthy growth requires long-range planning and the coordination of various policies and procedures, investments and infrastructure projects.”

What’s new
Shelby Ferguson, lead planner with engineering firm Olsson, said unlike Springfield’s current comprehensive plan, Forward SGF, Nixa’s is not based on place types – categories that describe the best use for specific areas of the city.

“We’re still looking at future land-use categories, but we have changed up the land use categories and really defined them and broken them out to single family, multifamily and then added a mixed residential,” she said.

The latter category anticipates a mix of single-family homes with duplexes and townhouses, providing an option between single-family and multifamily, according to Ferguson.

A November 2023 letter to city residents from Giddens, posted on the city website, notes the 2003 plan capped at 20% the amount of residential land that could be zoned for high-density multifamily development. The city did not come close to this mark.

Giddens’ letter notes only 9% of land zoned residential is high-density multifamily, while 87% is single-family, 4% is two-family and a tenth of a percent is medium-density multifamily. Of nearly 10,000 existing residential dwelling units in the city, 78% are single-family, 15% are high-density multifamily and 7% are two-family.

Giddens noted multifamily developments are important to sustainability of the community, providing workforce housing and affordable entry points to housing while also encouraging walkability.

“If single-family development is the only residential growth we experience in Nixa, we will have a large maintenance bill come due in the future for all the new linear feet of infrastructure which is needed to create these new subdivisions,” Giddens wrote in the letter to city residents. “Adding rooftops for individuals who work elsewhere and spend money in other communities is not sustainable for a community which relies on sales tax revenue to pay for police and road maintenance.”

In addition to more housing types, Nixa 2045 also adds a business flex land-use category, Ferguson said, explaining the category accommodates business parks or incubators.

The plan continues to concentrate industrial park activity to the northwest where some existing industrial development has room for expansion, Ferguson said.

She said aligning zoning and land use is a goal of the plan. Zoning offers a set of regulations, she added, while land use describes the highest and best uses of a parcel to accommodate development.

Tool for growth
Nixa 2045 will be the successor to the 2003 comprehensive plan now in effect. The demographic section of the 2003 plan highlights a 2000 population of 12,124 – a 158% increase over the 1990 population of 4,707.

In projecting the city’s growth, the 2003 plan seems to have hit the nail squarely, with 24,553 residents predicted by 2025. A Census Bureau estimate in July 2022 set the city’s population at 24,749.

The major themes of the 2003 plan are growth and expansion to meet it. The need for growth is highlighted in almost all areas of the plan, such as the police department, utilities and recycling. Expansion of the city hall is presented as a necessity, and indeed, additions were added in 2006.

“The city of Nixa has always been recognized for planning and being ready for the future,” the plan states. “Without the foresight of those who have served in the past and the planning of those presently serving, Nixa would not be the city it is today.”

Despite the accuracy of the population prediction and the recognition of the importance of having a growth mindset, Godbey said the 2003 plan has some gaps, in part because of advances in technology and changes in the ways people live and work.

“It kind of lagged behind. It wasn’t really helpful with a lot of the stuff we’re seeing today,” he said.

He said the hope is that Nixa 2045 will lead the community for the next 20 years – and if not, he hopes it can be updated more frequently as the city grows.

“Typically, when a community experiences substantial growth, you really want to reexamine your comprehensive plan,” he said.

Desire for amenities
Interviewed during Nixpo, Godbey said members of the crowd weren’t as focused on development considerations as they were amenities.

“Today, we’re seeing a lot of making sure things are walkable, and also pickleball courts seem to be very popular as well,” he said.

Ferguson said that type of feedback had been consistent throughout the engagement process.

“We continually hear more and more wanting to maintain and have more parks, amenities, recreation, as well as just the lack of entertainment or family-friendly areas,” she said.

Godbey said Nixa residents don’t want to go to Springfield to have their needs met.

“We hear a lot of, like, why can’t we have what Ozark and Republic and Springfield get,” he said. “It’s really educating people as well on our physical constraints – topographic limits and stuff like that.”

Matt Crouse, Nixa’s director of parks and recreation, said he is not surprised that public feedback favors parks.

“We know that quality of life keeps people in town, keeps them working, keeps them playing, and that’s the goal,” he said. “We really hope to be able to expand parks in the future to bring more to the community.”

Nixa voters rejected a November 2022 tax issue that would have increased funding for the city’s parks to provide an indoor sports complex while also funding the city’s police. Voters approved the police tax when it was decoupled from park funding in April 2023.

Nixa City Councilmember Aron Peterson said his takeaway is that residents would like to have enhanced parks but aren’t sure how best to fund them.

“They expect a lot, and we try to do what we can and be good stewards with what we’ve been given, but, yeah, in order to do some of these things, we just need that extra funding,” he said.

Peterson said the comprehensive plan has been a good process so far.

“A lot of people are putting a lot of time and effort into it, and we like the community buy-in that we’ve seen so far and the input that we’ve received,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting all that together and then coming up with the plan and see where that takes us.”

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