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Thread: Building a comprehensive plan - THE CYBURBIA FAQ

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    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Building a comprehensive plan - THE CYBURBIA FAQ

    Here is the concept: Post a typical question a planner in “Any Town USA” may have about the process of developing or updating a comprehensive plan. Feel free to answer your own question. Or answer questions you may find here. Post links to good articles and give examples from your career or those that happened in the town "next door."

    I’m going to exercise higher-than-normal moderating authority in this thread to keep it on subject and to eventually build a “Cyburbia Knowledge Base” of FAQ’s on this, as well as various other subjects.

    If you reply to a question please use the quote function and keep your answer on topic. Responses may be merged – credit will be given to authors. Beware you post counter driven Cyburbians that you posts her may not count once the thread is edited.

    This project should result in something that we can all be proud of contributing to when we start accumulating enough material to flesh out a few FAQs.

    Thank you.
    el Guapo

    PS - I will not edit your posts for content or grammar. You will be able to suggest changes to your posts even after the vBulletin editing time lapses by PMing me or another MOD.

    Q. What should I know before starting to develop a comprehensive plan for my community?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    Q. What should I know before starting to develop a comprehensive plan for my community?
    One of the first things that you should do is to take inventory of all of the plans that have been done for your community. Gather up the plans that have are currently being used as well as the well-intentioned plans that either were never fully approved that were approved but never implemented. Read through those plans and see what information you can still use. Take note of the shortcomings of the plans for use later on in your comprehensive planning process.

    Take inventory of what the plan specified and compare it to what actually happened in your community. Did your plan call for a residential area that has somehow become the City’s office park? Did your industrial district somehow become home to big box retailers like Home Depot and Wal Mart? If so, why? Did the plan fail to take certain things into consideration? Too often it seems that plans are done with pie-in-the-sky dreams of a utopian community where businesses can be picked and chosen by the community. Plans fail to take market forces, economy, property rights and personal preference into account. While dreams of utopia can be a great asset to the visioning process at the beginning of the comprehensive planning process, they should be weighed against other factors during the later stages.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    Q. What should I know before starting to develop a comprehensive plan for my community?
    In addition to reviewing your existing plans, review state statutes governing comprehensive planning in your state. There are required elements in the planning statutes that will be essential to the enforcability of your comprehensive plan. Most states allow a wide flexibility in the comprehensive planning process and in what you may include in your comprehensive plan, especially if you are in a "home rule" state.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    In addition to reviewing your existing plans, review state statutes governing comprehensive planning in your state. There are required elements in the planning statutes that will be essential to the enforcability of your comprehensive plan. Most states allow a wide flexibility in the comprehensive planning process and in what you may include in your comprehensive plan, especially if you are in a "home rule" state.
    Additionally, you will want to familiarize yourself with any recent and relevant case law in your state on comprehensive planning. Too often case law can significantly redefine some of the legislative intent of state enabling statutes. If you don't have access to case law, make sure you have the authority and funding to delegate this task to the municipal attorney.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

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    Q. What should I know before starting to develop a comprehensive plan for my community?

    The single most important thing to know about how to build a comprehensive plan is that it is the community's plan, and that the people of the community must be actively involved in its development. This means that you must have a thorough understanding of public involvement strategies and how to decide which strategies are best for your particular community.

    Having put months into a book that describes the process, I feel no need to repeat what it says here. Obtain a copy of The Planning for Results Guidebook by Lee Nellis and Karen Van Gilder from the National Association of Counties (it is a bargain at $12) and pay close attention to Chapter 1 and 2. Once you get the community talking about the plan and what it should contain, you can forge ahead.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Great thread EG - I turned it into a sticky.

    Here's a question/scenario that stumped me on a project I had about a year and a half ago:

    Q. What do you do when you've exhausted all of your means and still cannot get any substantial public input for the community's plan?
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  7. #7

    Q. What do you do when you've exhausted all of your means and still cannot get any substantial public input for the community's plan?
    [/QUOTE]

    Having recently worked on a large scale "vision" plan for a big chunck of our town, I've found that it's almost impossible to get people to focus on an area larger than their own neighborhood. What that suggests is that the best way to get input for your comp plan is to go to individual neighborhoods and ask people what they want for their area, and then try to stitch the answers together into a unified whole.

    In order to figure out how the neighborhoods and business districts link together, try inviting just the heads of neighborhood groups / merchants associations, councilpeople, etc. - people who are used to looking at the "big picture."

    You can also do the same activities in different neighborhoods (i.e. Visual Preference Surveys). What we found was that most people gave very similar answers, even when they were from very different areas.

    My question would be:
    Q. What innovate methods do people use to advertise or increase turnout at public meetings?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Q. What innovate methods do people use to advertise or increase turnout at public meetings?

    Food! Lots and lots of food!

    In all seriousness, catering can help attract - and keep - a crowd at public meetings.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  9. #9

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    SGB is right about food. Beyond its obvious appeal, the act of breaking bread together is a powerful unifying force for human beings.

    Entertainment can add to the appeal of a meeting, as well, as can offering day care. In some communities one might also want to offer transportation.

    If people aren't coming to your meetings you may have to go to them. Take a portable kiosk to the shopping mall or some other gathering place or to the county fair or another local event. Use it to distribute info, inform people of meetings, and to have at least some interaction. Even if some people are coming to your meetings this approach will broaden the base of involvement.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Catered a deli selection for 50, 7 showed up. We fed the entire city hall lunch the next day. To top it off, the expense was rejected by CDBG, because food was part of the 'entertainment' exclusion.

    Later with the same neighborhood, we did a pot luck--more than 70 came out.

  11. #11
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    Q. What should I know before starting to develop a comprehensive plan for my community?

    1. Give some serious thought to whether you rerally need a comprehensive plan. If you have one already, is it good enough? Will the new one be just about the same as the old one? If you don't have one, can the existing sets of standards be catalogued to do the same thing as a comprehensive plan.

    2. In any comprehensive plan time frame, you get to achieve 5-10 major objectives. Define those early. (A major objective is usually defined as a major change in the physical development of the city.) After you define these major objectives, run through #1 again. Do you really need a new comprehensive plan.

    3. Don't set up a Citizen's Committee unless you have a real reason to have one. It adds one more layer to the preparation project. You will have to prepare a General Plan for the CAC, for the Planning Commission, and then for the City Council. If you have a CAC, define their purpose before you start meetings.

    4. I like to start a General Plan process with an unstructured Town Hall meeting. Ask citizens what they want. A good format is a facilitated meeting. Start with an overview presentation to the group as a whole, Divide into discussion groups with a facilitator and recorder. Ask "what do you like," "what do you want to change," "what is your vision for the next 10-20 years." The facilitator points to people who want to speak. The recorder writes it down on a large pad (Post it makes presentation pads that stick to the wall). That way, when an idea is stated, it is written and doesn't have to be repeated. Everyone usually comes with one major idea, but when that is said and recorded, people talk about their second, third, or fourth priority, and you start to get a true picture of the public's opinion. At the end, give each person in the group 5 adhesive dots and let them "vote" for what they think is most important. I have compared the results of facilitated meetings to neighborhood surveys and found the meetings are pretty true to the survey results.

    If there is a lot of turmoil and conflict in town, it is best to use comment stations. Set up comment stations with a recorder and facilitator. Each station has some background information about a particular subject. The audience members circulate to the stations and talk directly with the facilitator. The recorder puts their comments down. This means there is no group dynamic. People are talking to the piece of paper on the wall, not to each other. You can also vote (as above) on the comments on the wall.

    5. Take the information and start the comprehensive plan preparation process. You should have a pretty good set of information on which to base draft policies.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Q. What is an adequate public review and hearing time period ?

    In my fair city, we placed a draft copy of our Comp Plan
    in 4 different Public Library branches, 2 university& 1 college libraries
    besides our our office and website: http://www.evansvilleapc.com/
    for 30 days before 3 already scheduled public meetings with another 30 days to submit comments.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella

    Q. What do you do when you've exhausted all of your means and still cannot get any substantial public input for the community's plan?
    With all of their other commitments, people simply do not have the time to attend meetings. Look to things that they can do at their liesure. Surveys are a good example. Make information available online and use a listserve to update anyone who signs up. Get information in the papers and on TV.

    Look at the bright side. People usually make the effort to show up when they are opposed to something. If nobody is attending your meetings despite all you are doing to keep them informed, perhaps it means that most people are pretty happy with the way it is going.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo

    Q. What should I know before starting to develop a comprehensive plan for my community?
    Whatever you do, will impact all the zoning and land development codes in your jurisdiction. If you have suggested changes to your comprehensive plan, show how they will be implemented through the codes.

    Use lots of graphics so citizens can see what the current land uses are, where there are conservation areas, etc.

    Know who the citizen activists are, what homeowners associations are active, etc. Contact them directly so they can involve their neighbors.

    Look at plans in neighboring communities and counties. You will likely need to ensure that your plan does not run counter to theirs (e.g., placing urban uses next to a rural area next door).

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Plus
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    An example of newspaper coverage of draft Comp Plan:
    In my fair city's newspaper today -front page and on their website:

    Planners take look at future of county
    Growth expected north and west

    http://www.courierpress.com/ecp/news...815761,00.html
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  16. #16
          Downtown's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    Q. What innovate methods do people use to advertise or increase turnout at public meetings?
    Send a press release to:
    the local PTA(s)
    Homeowner Assn. Coalition
    The senior center
    major churches

    Convince your local town newspaper to write an article in advance about the meeting.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Big Easy King's avatar
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    Once it has been determined that a comprehensive plan is warranted for your community, the following question would be instrumental in its development:

    What are the key elements/aspects that the comprehensive plan should address?

    I'll offer just a few, but please chime in.

    - scope of the plan
    - neighborhood and local historic district descriptions
    - demographics
    - economic development
    - transportation modes and systems
    - parks, recreation, and open space
    A person who strives is one who thrives. It's GREAT to be THE KING!!!

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plus
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    In our Comp Plan - Introduction Section we give Chapter and Verse from the State Code under Mandate for the Plan
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  19. #19
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Big Easy King
    What are the key elements/aspects that the comprehensive plan should address?
    In both jurisdictions I have worked in, the empowering Acts provide guidance. The first one is a pretty comprehensive list of items to include. the funny one is the budget. When we did our we did it $1 per year for each of the five years to be reviewed annully and without requiring amendment to the Plan.

    One jurisdiction requires the following as minimums

    (a) statements of policy with respect to
    (i) the development and use of land in the municipality,
    (ii) the conservation and improvement of the physical environment,
    (iii) the control and abatement of all forms of pollution of the natural environment,
    (iv) the development of communication, utility and transportation systems,
    (v) the reservation and projected use of land for municipal purposes, and
    (vi) the provision of municipal services and facilities, including
    (A) sewage collection, treatment and disposal,
    (B) water supply and distribution,
    (C) garbage disposal,
    (D) educational and cultural institutions,
    (E)recreational facilities, parks, playgrounds and other public open spaces,
    (F) fire and police facilities,
    (G) cemeteries and crematoria,
    (H) urban renewal,
    (I) housing,
    (J)preservation of buildings and sites of historical interest, and
    (K) facilities for the provision of health and social services,

    (vii) the co-ordination of programmes of the council relating to the economic, social and physical development of the municipality, and
    (viii) such matters other than those mentioned in this clause as are, in the opinion of the council, advisable; and

    (b) such proposals as are, in the opinion of the council, advisable for the implementation of policies contained in the plan; and

    (c) subject to subsections (6) and (7), a five-year capital budget for the physical development of the municipality.

    Where i live now you must include the following. Does not provide much guidance. In this jurisdiction they are far more concerned with processes than the product. Not sure if that is good thing or not.

    Contents of official plan

    16. (1) An official plan,

    (a) shall contain goals, objectives and policies established primarily to manage and direct physical change and the effects on the social, economic and natural environment of the municipality or part of it, or an area that is without municipal organization; and

    (b) may contain a description of the measures and procedures proposed to attain the objectives of the plan and a description of the measures and procedures for informing and obtaining the views of the public in respect of a proposed amendment to the official plan or proposed revision of the plan or in respect of a proposed zoning by-law. 1994, c. 23, s. 9; 1996, c. 4, s. 8 (1).
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  20. #20
    Q. What is different between Comprehensive Plan and Master Planning ? and What is different between Structure planning and Detail Planning?

  21. #21
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by edyo
    Q. What is different between Comprehensive Plan and Master Planning?
    In most jurisdictions, these terms are synonymous.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Q. 6 months after it's adoption and printing, is there any reason to keep drafts / comments in the file ?

    Reason I ask office files are being moved and stored.
    (probably never to see light of day again, until somebody else 20 yrs later will ask WTF)
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  23. #23
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Q. What should I know before starting to develop a comprehensive plan for my community?[/QUOTE]


    As yourself what are the reasons for establishing a plan? What do you want to get out of it?

    Should you look at individual "studies" and then combine these into a comprehensive plan?

    Alway remember that the community should "own" the project

  24. #24
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Comprehensive Plan Timeline

    Q. Does anyone have an example of a Comp Plan Timeline?
    I am specifically looking for a timeline for a revision, but any example will help. PM if need be.
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

  25. #25
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RandomPlanner...
    Q. Does anyone have an example of a Comp Plan Timeline?
    I've got a good timeline for a revision project, but the file size exceeds the Cyburbia attachment limits.

    PM me with an email address for a copy. (PDF file, 116KB)

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