Nancy Molnar

CANTON: A majority of City Council members has authorized the administration to spend $350,000 to develop a comprehensive plan for everything from parks to economic development and neighborhood revitalization.

Seven council members voted Monday to contract with CZB LLC of Alexandria, Va., a neighborhood planning firm.

Richard Hart, who was among the four council members to vote against the contract, said people from local charitable foundations and neighborhood associations have the “common sense” to see what needs to be done to improve the city.

He compared spending on a comprehensive plan to a patient with hardening of the arteries having cosmetic surgery.

In the majority was Councilman Edmond Mack, who noted that neighboring Jackson Township and North Canton have strategic plans and are prospering.

“Canton is light years behind other municipalities,” he said.

“We don’t have a concrete, strategic strategy on where and how to attract business,” Mack said.

“We don’t have a concrete, complete strategy on what neighborhoods need to be focused on to preserve our tax base.”

He said the alternative to approving the CZB contract was to “vote no and keep doing what we’re doing and hope things change.”

Councilman Thomas West said the planning process will give the entire community — including neighborhood associations and church leaders — the chance to work together to move the city forward.

“We need a comprehensive plan,” said Rhoderick Simpson of 30th Street Northwest, a member of the Stark County Regional Planning Commission. “We cannot continue to say no to everything. We all have to move in a much more positive way.”