Reports & Analysis

Key documents, memos, and presentations created throughout the Imagine One 85 planning process will be posted here for download and review.

Resources are categorized into the following sections:

Community Engagement Summaries

Imagine One 85’s  community and stakeholder engagement phases are designed to generate open comments on paths to improving the county’s qualities of place, life, and opportunities. The principle focus of the Imagine One 85 planning effort is addressing the county’s decreasing population.

Round One Engagement Summary: Focus on the Future

The Imagine One 85 Steering Committee hosted in-person and virtual workshops between November 2020 and March 2021. More than 250 people participated in a Focus on the Future discussion and, together, generated thousands of comments and ideas.

The input shared through round one will serve as a foundation for major elements of the plan including the community’s vision, goals, and general direction. The themes presented below represent particularly resonant responses from the first round of engagement.

Major Themes:

To address population decline, we will…

  • Enrich our education system
  • Create more and higher paying jobs
  • Increase housing options and affordability
  • Expand and improve high-speed internet access
  • Create great places
  • Embrace diversity
  • Strengthen our health and social support services
  • Broadcast our image
  • Improve coordination and collaboration across our organizations and institutions
  • Protect our natural features and develop outstanding new amenities
  • Attract and retain young, talented individuals
  • Continue to grow a skilled workforce

Technical Analysis Memos

The Comprehensive Plan is made up of fourteen topics that range from land use and transportation to natural resources and public health. This research and analysis will help inform the plan’s final recommendations. Key findings are presented below. 

Available for Review:

PROSPERITY

  • Economic Development
  • Fiscal Capacity
  • Fiscal Resiliency
  • Housing

PEOPLE

  • Public Health
  • Placemaking
  • Education

PLACE

  • Land Use
  • Agriculture
  • Natural Resources / Parks and Recreation
  • Historic and Archeological Resources

FOUNDATION

  • Transportation
  • Hazard Mitigation
  • Public Facilities and Services

PROSPERITY

The Prosperity Memo outlines the key findings, maps and tables for the various topics related to community and individual prosperity. Topics in this report include economic development, housing and fiscal conditions.

Key Findings

  • The economic activity in Wabash County is worth $1.2 billion and has grown by three percent from 2015.
  • There are just over 700 businesses, down from a high point before the 2008 national recession.
  • Wabash County has experienced little recent growth in its property tax base, which puts pressure on property tax rates and the ability to fund public services.
  • Wabash County has prioritized the local income tax in its fiscal policy. The county has seen significant recent income tax revenue growth.
  • The vast majority, 80% of the housing units, are single family
  • 19% of the county residents are “housing cost burdened”

Economic Development

The purpose of the Economic Development Technical Analysis is to provide a common set of facts regarding the performance of the County economy, and the status of its workforce. These facts in addition to interviews, and other targeted analysis are to support the creation of the economic development element for the County Comprehensive Plan.

  • The economic activity in Wabash County is worth $1.2 billion and has grown by three percent from 2015.
  • There are just over 700 businesses, down from a high point before the 2008 national recession.
  • Annual average wages have increased in real terms since 2010 by 10% but lags the state average by $10,000
  • Local labor needs (workforce) are met by the region – and the County’s employment needs (jobs for residents) are also met by the region.
  • 22% of county residents commute more than 50 miles for employment
  • Workforce in several industries is older than the state of Indiana

Fiscal Capacity

Understanding the fiscal environment is critical to realistic, actionable, long-range planning. This chapter provides an overview of the current tax and revenue structure of Wabash County and its municipalities to understand the tools available to support the planning process.

Key Findings

  • Major sources of local revenue are property taxes and income taxes.
  • Wabash County has experienced little recent growth in its property tax base, which puts pressure on property tax rates and the ability to fund public services.
  • Circuit breaker impacts are relatively low in most of the county but are an emerging issue for the Wabash Civil City.
  • Wabash County has prioritized the local income tax in its fiscal policy. The county has seen significant recent income tax revenue growth.
  • The current income tax rate is near the statutory maximum for budgetary revenues, leaving little capacity for rate growth.
  • Untapped revenue streams such as the Food and Beverage Tax and Wheel Tax/Surtax could generate revenue for future capital projects.

Housing

The purpose of the Housing Technical Analysis is to provide a common set of facts regarding the state of housing in Wabash County. These facts are to support the creation of the housing and land use elements for the County Comprehensive Plan.

Key Findings

Spacing
Wabash County Housing…

  • Consists of 14,000 housing units
  • Of which, 39% was built before 1939
  • The vast majority, 80%of the housing units, are single family
  • Limited new construction since 2009
  • 19% of the county residents are “housing cost burdened”
  • Has been rising in value faster than the state
  • Housing values have grown almost 3x of wages

PLACE

The Place Memo provides an analysis across four topics: land use, agriculture, natural resources and parks and recreation, and historic and archeological resources.

Key Findings

  • Very little land consumption from 2000. Just over 600 acres of agricultural land was lost to development from 2000. During this same period, the county lost 3,000 residents.
  • The current zoning maps identify significant growth areas. Almost every land use (commercial, residential, industrial, etc.) has at least 40% undeveloped land capacity available for future growth based on the current zoning.
  • Farms in the County continue to decrease in number but increase in average size. An average farm today is nearly 154% larger than the average Wabash farm in the 1940s.
  • Substantial parkland is protected from development. Approximately six percent of the County’s land is protected by local, state, and federal parks.
  • The County has a unique network of active preservation partners. Not all counties of similar size and composition have multiple historical societies and an institution like the Honeywell Foundation.

Land Use

Land use reviews the existing conditions of the built and natural places across the communities of Wabash County. Through this analysis, a comprehensive inventory was established of the various types of land uses and how much is present today to establish a baseline for future development growth. This section details the existing community character – another method for assessing the county’s land use profile – found throughout the county, evaluates the zoning framework that regulates land development, assesses current growth potential for specific land uses, and identifies assets to incentivize and leverage community investment. The final section of the topic provides an analysis of the county’s land cover patterns and changes over time.

Key Findings

  • A diverse collection of places from urban to rural to natural. There are ten unique place types in Wabash County ranging from natural parkland to historic/urban downtowns.
  • Very little land consumption from 2000. Just over 600 acres of agricultural land was lost to development from 2000. During this same period, the county lost 3,000 residents.
  • Agricultural land dominates in terms of overall land use. More than 82% of the county is used for farming operations. These uses include cultivation, livestock, along with other processes.
  • The current zoning maps identify significant growth areas. Almost every land use (commercial, residential, industrial, etc.) has at least 40% undeveloped land capacity available for future growth based on the current zoning.
  • Industrial development capacity is substantial. An estimated 71% or just over 4,080 acres of industrial zoned land is available for future development.

Agriculture

Agriculture takes a closer look into the primary type of crops and livestock that are produced throughout Wabash County. This is achieved through evaluating the current enabling infrastructure and identifying some of the emerging trends in farming that can be leveraged.

Key Findings

  • Farms in the County continue to decrease in number but increase in average size. An average farm today is nearly 154% larger than the average Wabash farm in the 1940s.
  • The market value of agricultural products sold has experienced a drop off in recent years. The County’s average market value of products sold per farm fell 27% between 2012 to 2017.
  • Local farmers are on the forefront of the Farm-to-Fork movement. While distributing products directly to restaurants is viewed as an emerging trend, a number of Wabash farms have already been doing this for decades.
  • Relatively little farmland was lost to development over the past 20 years. Based on a land cover analysis, just over 600 acres moved from an agricultural use to developed from 2000, roughly equivalent to the size of downtown Wabash.

Natural Resources / Parks and Recreation

This section reviews the natural resources and other unique places that have naturally defined the character of Wabash County and its communities. Along with this are the parks and recreation assets the county has developed to connect and expand the greenway and blueway network. Through this analysis, a baseline of the existing conditions is established to understand how the communities leverage these assets. This section details the natural resources available, examines existing programming, reviews the relationship between the natural and manmade, and identifies efforts to enhance natural assets.

Key Findings

  • Community parks are provided at all levels. From the local to the regional, parks and open spaces are provided throughout the communities of Wabash County.
  • Rivers are a major community asset. Several communities from Wabash to Roann have direct riverfront access to one or more of the county’s river corridors.
  • Substantial parkland is protected from development. Approximately six percent of the County’s land is protected by local, state, and federal parks.
  • Agricultural production has a strong relationship with the environment. Farming practices directly impact the health and quality of environmental resources like soil and water.

Historic and Archeological Resources

Historical and Archaeological Resources examines the County’s many cultural assets that contribute to the overall sense of place. This section assesses preservation efforts that have taken place within the county and highlights some of the organizations that are spearheading this important work.

Key Findings

  • Wabash communities are active advocates for their history and their landmarks of historical significance. The first landmark in the County to make it on the National Register was listed in 1979.
  • The County has a unique network of active preservation partners. Not all counties of similar size and composition have multiple historical societies and an institution like the Honeywell Foundation.
  • Historic assets play an important role in reinforcing community identity. Unique events such as the four-day Roann Covered Bridge Festival demonstrate how landmarks add vibrancy to the communities of Wabash.

PEOPLE

The People Memo provides analysis across three topics: public health, placemaking, and education.

Key Findings

  • Health Factors in Wabash are better than nearly two-thirds of other counties in Indiana. Areas of strength include Income Equality, Social Associations, Insurance Coverage, Mental Health Providers, and Vaccinations. Opportunity areas include Adult Smoking and Obesity, Post-Secondary Education, and Air Pollution.
  • Residents have access to opportunities for active and healthy lifestyles. Investments made in trails and blueways, particularly on the Wabash River Trail, promote an active lifestyle and provide recreation opportunities for residents. Healthy food access is provided through several Farmer’s Markets and a variety of grocery stores that offer fresh produce.
  • Placemaking efforts support other community priorities. The Wabash River Trail, Downtown Wabash Farmers Market, and other examples promote values such as public health and economic development.
  • Overall enrollment in schools has been declining and will continue as the County demographic changes. The aging population and only a modest rate of in-migration of families with school-aged children contributes to this trend.

Public Health

The Public Health chapter reviews the state of public health in Wabash County and its connection to economic resiliency. First, health factors and outcomes are measured against the state and comparable counties. Then, an inventory and map of the health care facilities across the County are presented to understand their distribution and to identify potential for growth. This section also details environmental impacts on public health, recognizing several key components particularly relevant to Wabash. The final section presents existing public health programs in the County alongside model programs as examples for further exploration.

Key Findings

  • Health Factors in Wabash are better than nearly two-thirds of other counties in Indiana. Areas of strength include Income Equality, Social Associations, Insurance Coverage, Mental Health Providers, and Vaccinations. Opportunity areas include Adult Smoking and Obesity, Post-Secondary Education, and Air Pollution.
  • County Health Outcomes are relatively low with respect to the state and comparable counties. Premature death rates are increasing. Cancer, heart disease, accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and diabetes mellitus contribute to this finding.
  • Residents have access to opportunities for active and healthy lifestyles. Investments made in trails and blueways, particularly on the Wabash River Trail, promote an active lifestyle and provide recreation opportunities for residents. Healthy food access is provided through several Farmer’s Markets and a variety of grocery stores that offer fresh produce.
  • 6.7% of County residents do not have health insurance, and 20% of residents are age 65 and older. By these measures, more than 25% of residents are especially vulnerable to significant health issues.
  • Health care facilities are clustered in the cities of Wabash and North Manchester, and they offer most services. The county is home to a Critical Access Hospital, Primary Care Physicians, a mental health clinic, and a variety of specialists. The nearest Level II Trauma Center is located in Fort Wayne.

Placemaking

The Placemaking section describes the quality of place characteristics in Wabash County. Next, it explains the connections between placemaking and other topic areas. Finally, this section describes recent placemaking efforts, identifies key assets in the county that contribute to its quality of place, and explores opportunities for future placemaking.

Key Findings

  • Wabash County has taken significant steps in placemaking to accentuate its natural and manmade assets. The Stellar Communities Grant has enabled a number of valuable projects that improve the County’s quality of place. Visit Wabash County has also promoted the various communities through improved signage.
  • Placemaking efforts support other community priorities. The Wabash River Trail, Downtown Wabash Farmers Market, and other examples promote values such as public health and economic development.
  • The COVID-19 Pandemic has highlighted the value of existing outdoor amenities and revealed a demand for more outdoor dining and gathering spaces.

Education

This section reviews the educational system within Wabash County. First, educational opportunities ranging from pre-K to post-secondary / vocational are identified and mapped. Further consideration is then given to understand trends in the County and to identify comparative measurements to use as benchmarks for the education system. Finally, this section provides a summary of the findings from the 2017 Studies for Advancement.

Key Findings

  • Wabash County is home to a complete continuum of learning opportunities. Residents have options that range from pre-k and early childhood to post-secondary and alternative, technical, and vocational training. The presence of Manchester University in the County is a significant higher education opportunity for a county of its size.
  • Overall enrollment in schools has been declining and will continue as the County demographic changes. The aging population and only a modest rate of in-migration of families with school-aged children contributes to this trend.
  • Current academic programs meet State requirements, but lower limits specialized or advanced learning opportunities and certain extracurricular activities. Class offerings like world languages, engineering, and business, and extracurriculars such as soccer teams and marching bands are unavailable.
  • Availability and affordability of childcare affects parents’ participation in the workforce. Limited access to childcare in Wabash presents significant economic challenges, including millions of dollars in lost wages and earnings.

FOUNDATION

The following report provides an analysis across three topics: transportation, hazard mitigation, and public facilities and services

Key Findings

  • Most streets are not congested and have plenty of capacity for growth. Some sections of SR-15 and SR-13 in the City of Wabash are nearing capacity and may experience peak hour congestion.
  • Pavement and bridge deferred maintenance backlogs are sizable and is the primary focus of County and local street superintendents.
  • Hazardous Materials Incidents were identified as the highest vulnerability in the County. This was based on factors such as risk probability, magnitude/severity, warning time, and the duration of the incident for each event.
  • Approximately one-third of residents lack access to high-speed internet. Fiber optic internet is limited within the County; only the City of Wabash and the Town of North Manchester have access to fiber.
  • Improving Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) is an area of focus. Wabash and North Manchester both have Long-Term Control Plans related to their stormwater and sanitary systems.

Transportation

The transportation section has two primary focuses. First, assess the community’s current and future multimodal transportation needs and opportunities from a high level. Second, consider how these needs and opportunities may affect population growth and decline.

Key Findings

  • Traffic Congestion — Most streets are not congested and have plenty of capacity for growth. Some sections of SR-15 and SR-13 in the City of Wabash are nearing capacity and may experience peak hour congestion. Bridge and Pavement Maintenance Backlogs — Pavement and bridge deferred maintenance backlogs are sizable and is the primary focus of County and local street superintendents.
  • Inadequate operations funding is affecting staffing levels and, as a result the ability to accommodate all service requests at Wabash Transit. For some, the agency’s services are their only means to live independently and without it, may need to move out of the area.
  • Wabash Municipal Airport’s main runway is 600 feet short of the minimum needed to insure hangered jets at the airport. Extending the runway makes the airport and county more attractive to large business owners want to fly into town when visiting their places of operation.
  • While most neighborhood and downtown streets are walkable and bikeable, other busy thoroughfares are not and may discourage walking and biking. Shared-use paths in Wabash provide a recreational amenity for those who travel to them. These quality-of-life amenities are important to those considering whether to move to the area.
  • Both Wabash and North Manchester have attractive downtowns with a strong sense of place. Beyond these places, a number of corridors lack needed infrastructure and visual enhancements to be recognized as authentic, desirable places.

Public Facilities and Services

The Public Facilities and Services chapter takes inventory of the different utility services, facilities, and infrastructure that are currently provided by the City of Wabash, the Towns of North Manchester, LaFontaine, Lagro, and Roann, and the unincorporated areas in Wabash County.

Key Findings

  • Approximately one-third of residents lack access to high-speed internet. Fiber optic internet is limited within the County; only the City of Wabash and the Town of North Manchester have access to fiber.
  • Improving Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) is an area of focus. Wabash and North Manchester both have Long-Term Control Plans related to their stormwater and sanitary systems.
  • Septic system monitoring and maintenance in the unincorporated portions of the county are necessary to protect and improve water quality. Failures of the residential septic systems, especially in clusters, are deleterious to surface and groundwater quality. These systems are prevalent outside of the water and sewer service areas and there have been recent, notable failures.

Hazard Mitigation

In order to promote safety and resiliency, a community’s comprehensive plan should work in tandem with its hazard mitigation efforts. This chapter evaluates the primary findings of the 2019 Wabash County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan and identifies other potential hazards that were not included in the latest plan.

Key Findings

  • Hazardous Materials Incidents were identified as the highest vulnerability in the County. This was based on factors such as risk probability, magnitude/severity, warning time, and the duration of the incident for each event.
  • Public education and outreach is the County’s highest priority mitigation practice. It meets the criteria of 5 out of the 6 primary mitigation strategies and can apply to all 11 identified hazards.
  • Biological Hazards, including global pandemics, are not addressed in the current MHMP. These types of hazards follow similar patterns to Natural Hazards.