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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Interview with Richmond Resident: Scott Zimmerman, City Planner

"Whatever we do with whatever we have, we leave behind as a legacy for those who follow." 
~Stephen Covey~

In Sights, Sounds and Smells of Richmond, Indiana, I reflected on what I love most about this town. I wrote,

"I love the people who make this city worth living in, whether they are running the companies we work for or the nonprofits and organizations that keep us going in tough times. Maybe they just happen to be the people who are there when someone is needed."

This blog has given me so much opportunity to talk to people in our community. I feel like I really get to connect with more people who are active in this city making Richmond what it is and working towards what it can be. I set out on my hometown exploration in what some would call an overly  naive, optimistic fashion. It's true that when I look at a room, I often see it all ready redecorated! However, I'm glad to say that I have not yet been disappointed, only thrilled to discover how many people in our town care.

I recently contacted a former next door neighbor of mine, city planner and non-profit SPUR President, Scott Zimmerman for an interview. His response was quick! I've wondered just what does a City Planner do, and what advice could be offered to the average resident on how to improve Richmond on a small, do it yourself scale. Answers are below! Here we go:


Scott, you've worked as Richmond's city planner for just over ten years now. What about Richmond, Indiana keeps you living and loving this corner of the world?

"I grew up in Muncie so I feel very comfortable with East Central Indiana. I’ve also lived in Kokomo and Terre Haute; industrial towns that have had to adjust to changing times. What keeps me here is a continued hope that Richmond will be able to develop a new future based on attracting new businesses to town who appreciate our locality. The potential for preservation of our historic resources and enhancement of our natural resources is huge."

What is a typical day for a city planner? What kind of duties are yours?

"I spend most of my day answering people’s questions about land use; more specifically, what they’re allowed to use land for or to what standards must they adhere when building on their property. That ranges from “Can I run a business out of my garage?” to “How tall can a fence be in my back yard?” The answers aren’t always easy like "No" or "6 feet". Sometimes they depend on the zoning classification or location on a block. From a long-term perspective, I try to make sure Richmond is keeping up-to-date planning documents. These are reports that say what a community needs to do to meet goals on topics like Transportation or Housing or Neighborhood Development. We recently replaced a 1980's Transportation Plan with a document that reflects the community’s desire to have better bike and pedestrian accommodations around town. Another portion of my time is spent trying to enforce our zoning codes by sending violation notices when something is determined to be illegal based on our code. Again, the amount of time spent determining what is illegal can be substantial."

There's a lot of potential change in the near future for Richmond. There's talk of bike lanes and increased walkability, the possibility of a Stellar Community Grant, etc. What can the average resident do to help improve our community in general?

"There are a number of ways Richmond residents can improve the community in general. Getting to know your neighbors is VERY important. Many neighborhood problems develop because neighbors don’t get along. It can even help reduce crime just by being neighborly. Another important step is to be willing to keep our streets clean. If you have time to pick up trash on the sidewalk when you’re walking your dog, please do! It may seem like a little thing but it can have a big impact if everyone were to do that every day. Finally, be involved in your community either through local schools or clubs or churches. They support a lot of needs in our community. I think our Stellar Community Program application is so strong because we have strong support from our community organizations."

As a resident of Richmond, in what direction would you like to see Richmond go in the next five years?

"I would like Richmond to continue to develop support for small local businesses. Those businesses tend to be in the older parts of the community (like the depot district or Olde Richmond) which have close connection to our natural resource areas and our historic properties. Those areas continue to bring new people to Richmond."

You also are part of a group called SPUR, what does that stand for and how is your group involved in our community?

"I’m honored to be the president of a nonprofit group started almost 50 years ago as the Society for the Preservation and Use of Resources. Its goal is to better use our local natural resources and to protect significant land areas. The SPUR acquired the land and established the Whitewater Gorge Trail from Test Road to the Starr-Gennett site which is now part of our parks system. That park now extends north and will connect to the Cardinal Greenway. We are now working on a section along the East Fork of the Whitewater River which will connect Sim Hodgin Parkway, Freeman Park, Glen Miller Park and eventually go all the way to the state line."

What do you and/or your family like to do to relax after a busy day in Richmond?

"My youngest son is still at home and since I play trumpet and he plays trombone, we practice brass pieces for our church. I personally like to canoe at Middlefork Reservoir but my wife doesn’t care much for water activities so we garden in our back yard. We have two apple trees, a cherry tree and just planted a peach tree in our front yard two years ago. We mainly grow tomatoes and leaf lettuce but this year we’re adding broccoli, cabbage plus potatoes in raised cages."


Zimmerman & Zimmerman both RHS Sousa Award Winners Past & Present 


As a former next door neighbor, I can attest to the fact that the entire Zimmerman family shows good citizenship in their polite demeanor, carefully tended garden and community involvement. Thank you Scott for your valuable time and excellent answers! 

Visit the Local-Lady Blog for more features, interviews and events coming soon!


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