Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Utah APA Offers Free Monthly Planning Webcasts for APA Members

The Utah Chapter of APA has a website which offers registration for free online webcasts in order to pursue AICP CM Credits. The 2011 schedule is active and has many sessions. You must register for each one you actively participate in to gain credit for the webcast. More information is available from the website: http://www.utah-apa.org/webcasts.htm

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Awards Presented at Annual Section Banquet

The 2010 Midwest Section Awards Banquet was held at The Ashton Hotel in downtown Fort Worth on January 14, 2011. Section members enjoyed a cocktail reception and dinner with friends and colleagues. As an added treat, caricaturist Ty Walls entertained guests with flattering portraits of themselves.

The awards review committee had an exciting and challenging time reviewing all the nominations. The committee presented awards honoring several projects: two planning project awards, a student planning project award, a planning advocate award, and one special award.

Thanks to the awards committee members for taking time during the holidays to review and discuss the submittals: Clayton Comstock, City of Southlake; Douglas McDonald, City of Keller; and Clayton Husband, City of Arlington.

Planning Advocate

Arlington Urban Design Center

The City of Arlington is experiencing a significant amount of development activity, primarily due to the opening of the new Cowboys Stadium, the success of the Texas Rangers, the expansion of the University of Texas at Arlington, and the selection of Arlington as the site for Super Bowl 2011. In order to capitalize on this surge of reinvestment, the City’s Community Development and Planning Department collaborated with the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) School of Urban and Public Affairs to create a unique planning studio staffed with six graduate students studying architecture, landscaping, and urban planning. This joint effort, called the Arlington Urban Design Center, creates public awareness about the importance of sustainable urban design and its impact on quality of life, the environment, and economic investment; and provides high-quality urban design solutions at no cost to its clients.

During its first year, the Center completed approximately 30 projects. The City’s and University’s financial commitment, along with $46,500 in grant funding and private donations, allows staff to provide services free of charge. The ability of the students to use their personal and school equipment and software significantly reduces the amount of investment needed for the program and allows the Center to function with very low overhead. In addition, Center staff educates users about sustainable development techniques such as solar energy, porous paving, rain harvesting, and energy efficient building materials.

The program is distinctive in that it provides clients with direct access to professional design staff and guidance on development proposals, creating a range of mutually beneficial outcomes:

  • Students benefit extensively from real project experience.
  • New students are attracted to UTA because of the unique, hands-on opportunity to be part of a successful Design Center.
  • City departments are able to utilize students’ skill sets for public projects and studies, and
  • Businesses, neighborhoods, and residents benefit from the availability of free professional services.

The Arlington Urban Design Center provides a model to follow for creative collaboration with local partners, and has become a strong advocate for how the planning process shapes the physical, social and economic environment of Arlington.

Planning Project

Imagine Burleson: Roadmap to 2030

The City of Burleson, with the help of Freese and Nichols, prepared a dynamic Comprehensive Plan that set goals to preserve the City’s history and natural resources while facilitating growth management and encouraging sustainable, desirable development. From the visioning phase to its adoption and current implementation, the goal was to facilitate an inclusive process and to develop a plan that would preserve the past, realize current potential and guide the future.

The project team implemented a progressive and thorough public participation program. Overwhelming buy-in for the Plan was achieved through a series of open houses, town hall meetings, stakeholder meetings, advertising, and high school and college student participation. The City used its resident alert system to advertise public meetings, drawing in citizens that may not have normally participated. With two colleges located in Burleson, educational organizations and college students were included in the process, revealing the desire to locate student housing in both the campus district and historic downtown.

Six key core values emerged from diverse and widespread public input: land use, complete streets, community enhancement, environmental sustainability, economic diversification, and urban design. Goals and strategies were developed that address current issues and future initiatives such as transit, livable streets, strong neighborhoods, and reinvestment into the community.

Since the Plan was adopted in April 2010, 21 associated projects have been initiated, including 14 completed code amendments. Some of these accomplishments include:

  • Seeking HUD grants for redevelopment in Old Town
  • Creating a mobility plan and context sensitive solutions manual
  • Developing a Land Conservation Program to preserve open space and rural character
  • Promoting sustainable development and urban design in a new transit oriented development district, the Interstate 35 and Highway 174 corridors, and High Point Business Park; and
  • Drafting the city’s first lighting and night sky ordinance

With wide support from City leaders, Burleson ISD, the Burleson Area Chamber of Commerce and the private development community, Imagine Burleson will have a significant impact on livability for the community at every stage of life, and will become a source for best practices in the North Texas region.

Planning Project

North Texas 2050

Vision North Texas is a private, public and academic partnership created to serve as a forum for dialogue and action on these important issues. Beginning with a regional visioning workshop in 2005, the partnership has involved people from all parts of the 16-county area surrounding Fort Worth and Dallas in the consideration of choices for the region’s future.

The North Texas 2050 document is the first policy document that integrates recommendations for typical planning issues – land use, transportation, housing, water infrastructure and parks – at the scale of the 12,800 square mile region. It also incorporates health, education, climate resilience and economic development. This comprehensive and coordinated approach means the entities responsible for all these investments can share North Texas 2050 so their decisions all support a sustainable preferred future.

Contained in the document are a set of policy recommendations and an action package with specific priority action items that begins to implement the shared vision of the region. The plan identified a list of ‘top 20’ priority actions that should be implemented in 2010. The policies and action tools can be used by cities, developers, neighborhood groups and other individual decision-makers as they make their own investments. It uses a set of five geographic policy areas and eight investment areas to organize these recommendations so they relate to the unique characteristics and needs of each place within North Texas. The result is sustainability built into the existing institutional fabric of the region.

Currently members of the Vision North Texas partnership are meeting with various local city councils, planning groups, and private developers to continue outreach efforts for the project. Cities such as Southlake, Fort Worth and Midlothian have already begun using the specific policy recommendations contained in North Texas 2050 in their own local land use policies and development regulations.

Through the work of Vision North Texas, a new vision for the future has emerged that accommodates anticipated growth and offers a higher quality of life and a better future. The North Texas 2050 document presents this preferred future and proposes action to make it a reality.

Student Planning Project

Vidor Comprehensive Land Use Plan

Each year the Midwest Section honors a student project that makes a significant contribution to the planning profession. The city and regional planning program at the University of Texas at Arlington provides opportunities for research on issues of concern to local governments, public agencies and nonprofit organizations in a wide range of areas. The research is conducted by graduate students working under the supervision of a qualified professor. There are scores of graduates of the UTA program working in the Arlington-Fort Worth area.

The City of Vidor approached the University to seek assistance with creating a comprehensive land use plan as a precursor to enacting the city’s first zoning ordinance. A team of seven graduate students, under the supervision of Dr. Ard Anjomani, began the project in January 2010, and presented the plan to the Mayor, City Council, and citizens of Vidor in October 2010. The plan has since been adopted unanimously by the City Council.

Despite previous attempts, the City of Vidor had never had a zoning ordinance. Historically, the city has managed land use through deed restrictions and covenants. This created a fragmented built environment, with undesired land uses mixed within existing residential neighborhoods. Additionally, Vidor has experienced two hurricane strikes (Rita and Ike) in the last several years, which greatly affected the city.

The planning process also focused on developing a planning vision and population and employment growth scenarios for Vidor, not simply a template for creating a zoning ordinance. The project team used aerial images, on‐site observations, and Orange County Appraisal District data to establish a base map of natural and built features, land uses, and existing infrastructure. Students researched and analyzed population, employment, housing, and other data for Vidor, Orange County, and the southeast Texas region.

Public input included a day‐long presentation and work session in May 2010. This included presentation of a “State of the Community Report”, a visioning and goal setting session, and an interactive map exercise. The results of this meeting validated background data and identified a preferred growth scenario. The vision statement, planning goals, and land use policies were reviewed and revised over time in consultation with City staff and elected officials in order to finalize the plan.

The planning document itself utilizes descriptive imagery, figures, and tables. In addition, the plan makes extensive use of GIS mapping capabilities. The report concludes with a discussion of suggested next steps for Vidor to implement land use regulation in conformance with the new plan. Extensive appendices provide background information and detailed supporting analysis.

These students distinguished themselves in their contributions to the profession and to the city and regional planning program at UTA.

Director Recognition

Each year the awards committee recognizes the outgoing director for their service and dedication as Director of the Midwest Section, and for representing the Section on Texas Chapter board. Being director is a three-year commitment of planning programs and events, managing all activities of the section, attending state board meetings, and ultimately, serving as advisor to the Board. As all past directors can attest to, it’s the final duty as advisor that is most satisfying, as all those other duties are over with.

The awards committee was pleased to recognize Curvie Hawkins for his service as director of the Midwest Section for 2010.