Travelers become practiced at discerning well-planned communities from those that sprung up too quickly. Well-maintained and supported downtown commercial sectors, mixed uses throughout, green space, accessibility and infrastructure — these are all things that contribute to the look and feel of a city or town.
In Sheridan County, elected officials engaged local residents in a planning process that would outline the future growth of the county for decades to come.
The Sheridan County Comprehensive Plan was approved in December 2008, and updated in 2020. It pairs with the Future Land Use Plan, which looks at how unincorporated areas of the county could develop.
As part of the update process, the county solicited feedback from citizens. Those who weighed in felt it important for Sheridan County to maintain a strong sense of rural character.
The vision statement that came from the process states Sheridan County residents should seek to build a future focused on:
• Balanced stewardship and uses of the land, water, view sheds and natural resources that inspire and sustain;
• Sustainable growth and development that emphasises communities and promotes the dignity and value of people, their rights and their property;
• Enhancement of an intermodal transportation network of roads, trails, paths, waterways and bikeways allowing ease of access for commerce, work and play through all seasons;
• Support of vital working lands and the lifestyles they require;
• Preservation of rich history of places and people that make Sheridan County special.
Within the plan, leaders looked to clearly define urban and rural areas in an effort to protect its assets as new development occurs while also considering the impact new development may have on roads, schools, emergency services and other infrastructure.
“It gives us a guideline, a map,” Bob Rolston said in 2008 when the plan was approved. Rolston served as a Sheridan County commissioner at the time. “As things develop in Sheridan County, we’ve got a plan that tells us how it should be done so that everybody’s working off the same page.”
The city and county also developed a 60-square-mile planning area with the purpose to “define a compact pattern of future growth within urban neighborhoods within an urban service area and a feathered residential transition around the city of Sheridan where clustered development patterns and conservation at the edge of the city transitions into agricultural areas.”
In addition to the county’s comprehensive plan, the city of Sheridan approved a Land Use Plan in 2017 that outlines its own goals for growth and development, which also centers around sustainability, suitable industrial locations, a diverse housing mix, commercial nodes, open space and transportation.
When beginning the process, the Sheridan Land Use Plan Steering Committee asked three questions: What do you like about Sheridan? What do you want Sheridan to be like in 10 years? What do you not like about Sheridan?
Surveys conducted during the planning process indicated 80% of residents believed development should not impair utilities and should improve the quality of new development in the surrounding area.
Other issues residents found important were maintaining environmental quality (65%), a potable water supply with quality parks and pathways (78%) and maintaining the area’s scenic beauty and mountain views (78%).
Since the city and county plans were approved, elected and planning officials from both the city of Sheridan and Sheridan County have worked to abide by the principles set forward.
As more families and businesses move to the area, the focus on responsible growth will continue to play an important role in Sheridan’s future.