At last night's Lewisville Planning Board meeting we were reviewing the town's 2010 update to its Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan is a document that is created and revised by a series of task forces made up of volunteer citizens and then sent to the Planning Board for review and from there to the Town Council for final approval and adoption. The task forces working on the 2010 review took the 2005 version and made necessary updates and edits based on changes in the town over the past five years — changes in the regulatory environment (ex. new Federal stormwater requirements), new developments over the past five years, etc.
One of the additions made was the mention of social media as a form of communication that the town should use to engage and inform its citizens. During our discussion of that addition we hit on the fact that hyperlinks would be included in the document for the first time since the 2010 version of the Plan will be the first to reside online and not merely in print. What ensued was a discussion that reminded me of President Clinton's famous quote that it "depends on what the definition of is is."
One of us (it might have been me) said that it would be great to have the ability to go back and add appropriate hyperlinks to the document if new sources of information became available. For instance if the Comprehensive Plan references a map that isn't currently online, but becomes available online at a later date, it would be great to be able to insert a hyperlink to the map at that time. The town attorney stopped us and said he'd be hesitant to say that would be allowable, mainly because it would change the document from whatever form the task forces had created, the Planning Board had reviewed and the Town Council had voted to adopt. I, for one, wasn't sure that adding a hyperlink changed the document since it was merely adding a link to a source that was being referenced by the original document. Then the question of who would confirm the accuracy of the linked document arose, and it doesn't take much imagination to see that we got started down a pretty serious philosophical rabbit hole from that point on.
We're not done reviewing the Comprehensive Plan, and I'm still not convinced one way or another on whether or not the addition or deletion of a hyperlink changes a document. I know our attorney well enough to be 100% sure that he's right legally, but I'm not sure that I agree philosophycally with the law in this case. In the end I think the rabbit hole we started down will lead to one very significant choice that needs to be addressed: should a document like a town's Comprehensive Plan be a static piece that is changed only when the community comes together every X number of years, or should it be a living, breathing document that is updated on a regular basis? I won't tell you what I think, although you could probably guess, but I'd love to hear what others think.