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Swisher sets its course for the future

SWISHER– “If Swisher doesn’t define itself, someone else will.”
But Kehla West, Swisher’s summer planning intern, said she believes the community is too valuable for that to happen.
West grew up on a farm in a similar-sized town in Indiana and will conduct a June community survey about Swisher’s future. In May, she started work as a part-time intern to draft a comprehensive plan for the town.
The project will include the aspirations of its citizens regarding “community development in the areas of transportation, utilities, land use, recreation and housing, covering a long-term time horizon,” according to a job advertisement posted for the internship.
West was hired part-time by the city of Swisher after council member and Mayor Pro Tempore Mary Gudenkauf and new Mayor Tim Mason pushed the comprehensive plan before the town’s city council early this year.
Mason took office in January and quickly moved to bring Swisher into the starting the process that will be the town’s guide to the community’s growth, including economic and housing development for the next 20 years.
The city looked at several options for a comprehensive plan, but hiring it out proved too expensive.
So Kehla West, a second-year grad student in urban and regional planning, will work with Swisher community members and city staff to draft a plan based on a June community survey and two public forums.
West began work May 16 and will begin conducting a month-long community survey on June 1.
She said this first step will make sure the comprehensive plan reflects the values and goals of the community and help the community decide what should happen in terms of housing, economic development, and community amenities.
Town hall will be the site of two community forums: Saturday, June 30, at 11 a.m.; and Wednesday, July 25, at 6 p.m. Discussions will focus on defining Swisher’s assets, issues and opportunities, and staff will be on hand to answer questions and take input from the community about the plan.
Mayor Mason said he thought Swisher had a lot of potential and no plan and would look at how other towns in the area have moved forward with planning and developing. He was also interested in partnering in the area, especially around Interstate 380’s exit 10 interchange that Swisher shares with Shueyville.
Mason said that the completion of Swisher’s new sewer treatment plant has the town poised for development.
He’s watched the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor grow enough over the past decade to become concerned that development from Coralville, North Liberty and Cedar Rapids will eventually have Swisher between their pincers.
“We don’t want to stagnate and we don’t want to be caught between the two communities,” he said.
Swisher’s new sewer plant has double the treatment capacity of the current population, which is just under 900, so the stage is set for growth, Mason said.
He hopes to formalize the eventual plan as a living document that town officials use for potential development in an ever-changing Swisher.
The comp plan will guide Swisher in short-, medium-, and long-range planning.
Mason said short-term plans might have a one- to five-year range and include a downtown beautification project.
He mentioned one intermediate goal that could come out of the planning process might be a city water system. Swisher’s long-term goals would help address real estate development over the next 10 to 20 years.
Mason also said the planning and zoning commission had recently discussed improvements in Swisher.
He predicted that council would see a draft of the plan by the fall.