Getting to the Bottom of Sustainable Comprehensive Plans


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VHB Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc
City of Lowell

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Getting to the Bottom of Sustainable Comprehensive Plans

  1. 1. Not Your Average Sustainability Session: Getting to the Bottom of Sustainable Comprehensive Plans Massachusetts Association of Planning Directors Conference – June 5, 2014
  2. 2. Agenda  Sustainability Master Plan Defined  Why?  Principles  Process  Attributes and Elements  Implementation and Evaluation  Discussion and Questions  Deep Thoughts
  3. 3. Meet VHB  300+ employees in 4 offices around the MA  Integrated planning, transportation, land development & environmental services  Innovative tools and resources to meet your needs
  4. 4. City of Lowell, MA  Lowell is home is just over 106,000 residents, making it the fourth largest city in the Commonwealth  Plan E form of government  Creative economy central to rebirth of City – approx. 200 live/work studios and 250 active artist studios  UMass Lowell expansion: 7 new buildings since 2012 and 45% increase in student enrollment in the last 6 years to a total of 17,000  Lowell General Hospital anchors strong medical field
  5. 5. Two Terms Defined:  A Sustainability Comprehensive Plan focuses on the long-term viability of the economic, environmental, social and cultural aspects of communities and regions. • APA provides one definition, “…[a] plan to meet the needs of current and future generations without compromising the ecosystems upon which they depend by balancing social, economic, and environmental resources, incorporating resilience, and linking local actions to regional and global concerns.”  A Sustainable Comprehensive Plan is an active, living document with engaged stakeholders and active projects that remains at the forefront of development and planning actions.
  6. 6. Why do a Sustainability Comprehensive Plan?  Incorporate sustainability principles into planning and decision-making  Create more resilient, livable communities  Plan for all critical infrastructure, resource needs and potential impacts (heat island, flooding, etc.)  Keep up with the times!
  7. 7. Sustainability Principles • Livable built environment • Harmony with nature • Resilient economy • Interwoven equity • Healthy communities • Responsible regionalism
  8. 8. Sustainability Comprehensive Plans should…  Link with current redevelopment initiatives  Include a comprehensive background review to establish community consensus  Seek wide-scale buy-in and develop diverse stakeholders to carry plan goals and strategies forward  Track progress of quantifiable objectives; many goals cannot be easily tracked, and that’s OK!
  9. 9. Our Experiences Greenfield  2012-2013  Builds upon existing planning efforts including Sustainable Franklin County  250+ people attended workshops  550+ ideas generated  40+ Master Plan Advisory Committee meetings  Used MindMixer for ongoing, virtual participation Lowell  2010-2013  Update to 2003 Master Plan with a comprehensive sustainability vision  Engaged 800+ people in data collection, 175+ in innovative planning tool (Community PlanIt)  Multi-language visioning sessions attended by more than 160 stakeholders  Approved by Council Spring 2013
  10. 10. Process
  11. 11. Engagement • Diverse participation • Departments and municipal staff • Transparent decisions • Disadvantaged leadership • Ongoing information • Community-wide & neighborhood involvement • Social media use • Mix it up! Authentic Participation Build Lasting Buy-In Design the plan development process to link with implementation • Think about critical stakeholders and have them help shape the vision from the start • Look for ways to integrate with emerging initiatives • Engaged stakeholders and links to new initiatives create built-in implementation oversight and actions
  12. 12. Process – Do your Homework  What other planning processes are currently happening? – Understand planning environment – Beware planning fatigue!  What has your community/region engaged in recently?  What other entities may be embarking on a similar process?
  13. 13. Process – Analyze Existing Conditions  Collect data  Engage stakeholders at all levels  Look at existing local plans  Look at Regional/State Plans  Set the stage for consensus
  14. 14. Process – Create a Vision and Set Goals  Develop a vision for the plan and create realistic goals  You don’t need a lot of goals…less is more!  Goals should define where you want to be in X number of years, i.e., in 10 Years…  Ask questions to get the answers
  15. 15. Process – Develop Realistic Strategies  Strategies achieve the goals  Keep it simple  Remember – you want to be able to implement these  Are they conflicting with other strategies in the plan?  What does this look like in 5-10 years?
  16. 16. Process – Create Meaningful, Accountable Implementation Plan  Use indicators and metrics  Monitor outcomes and goal progress  Commit resources  Assign responsibilities  Communicate your success!
  17. 17. Process – Evaluation Criteria  A set of conditions or principles that measure how an action is consistent with sustainability goals  Help to prioritize and organize actions for implementation  Can be updated and reassessed to help the community reprioritize based on changing conditions  Is helpful in dealing with “Master Plan paralysis”
  18. 18. AttributesandElements
  19. 19. Attributes Consistent Content • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats • Set measurable objectives • Layout future vision • Maps, tables, graphics, & summaries Coordinated Characteristics • Comprehensive--cover all relevant topics • Coordinated--vertically & horizontally • Integrated--include other plans’ recommendations • Persuasive--communicate clearly
  20. 20. Elements: Greenfield  Traditional chapters plus….  Climate adaptation  Energy efficiency  Food access  Health and wellness  Social services  Renewable energy Or….integrate these into the traditional chapters!
  21. 21. Elements: Lowell
  22. 22. Implementation & Evaluation
  23. 23. Developed our plan with implementation as a priority:  Focused on engaging groups critical to our objectives, including: residents and business owners in redevelopment areas; and service providers who will be critical leaders for community-based actions  Facilitated discussions that gave like-minded people a chance to connect, explore ideas and build coalitions  Offered creative use of city resources to support projects furthering plan goals Implementation & Evaluation: Lowell
  24. 24. Collaborative projects emerge from public and staff consensus building – Example: Mill City Grows, partner NPO, focused on the production and consumption of locally grown food – Community garden program and urban farming Implementation & Evaluation: Lowell
  25. 25. Implementation & Evaluation: Lowell Build support for existing projects:  Cambodia Town  Building and expanding bike lane infrastructure  Downtown two-way traffic conversion Implementation & Evaluation: Lowell
  26. 26. Implementation & Evaluation: Lowell Reimagining Plans  Downtown Evolution Plan  Hamilton Canal District Plan  JAM Urban Revitalization Plan Building Plans  Ayer’s City Industrial Park  Open Space and Recreation Plan  Lowell’s Cultural Plan
  27. 27. Implementation & Evaluation: Lowell Ayer’s City Industrial Park should be an active, economically vital, attractive, environmentally and economically sustainable commercial/industrial district that: – Supports and enhances existing businesses; – Attracts new development/businesses that create jobs and support the City’s tax base; – Provides attractive multi-modal links/connections to and between adjacent residential and commercial districts; and, – Enhances appreciation of and connection to natural resources.
  28. 28. Implementation & Evaluation: Lowell Open Space and Recreation Plan – Combined planning processes – Gathered data to support both plans – Avoided planning fatigue
  29. 29. Implementation & Evaluation: Lowell LowellStat – Building sustainability plan goals into departmental goals – Tracking progress – Reporting back – Numbers 4 Neighborhoods
  30. 30.  Create/identify a champion  Institutionalize the Comprehensive Plan  Communicate!  Measure, track and report progress  Constantly identify new stakeholders Implementation: Best Practices
  31. 31. Implementation: Greenfield 1. Create a Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee 2. Promote the results of Sustainable Greenfield often 3. Use the Sustainable Master Plan as the Go-To reference for all Town projects
  32. 32. Implementation: Greenfield 5. Track, measure, and report progress of implementing Sustainable Greenfield strategies 6. Identify and incorporate additional stakeholders into the implementation stage
  33. 33. Discussion and Questions
  34. 34. Discussion  What are obstacles to creating a: – Sustainable Comp Plan – Sustainability Comp Plan?  What elements are the most challenging?  How do we ensure implementation?  What resources/information do you need?
  35. 35. If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else. -Yogi Berra
  36. 36. In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia. - Author Unknown
  37. 37. Angela Vincent | | 603.305.5385 Craig Thomas | | 978.674.1445 Yovani Baez | | 978.674.1413