Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Values Based Planning

I've been working on a plan for the City of Dripping Springs, a town facing significant growth pressures just west of Austin. The public input from surveys, town halls, focus groups, etc. indicate that residents are very considered with this rapid growth and want to preserve the 'small town' character of their community.

This is pretty typical of what we see in these communities. People move out there and then want to close the door behind them. Austin faces the same attitude among its residents. Those who moved here in the last 10 years are often the most rabid anti-growthers. So, this is what we're dealing with.

We started with a traditional planning approach, identifying goals and objectives based around typical plan topics of economic development, housing, community development, parks and recreation, infrastructure, etc. This follows the pattern we've used on many plans and is the go to approach for many comprehensive plans. Well, to be blunt, this didn't work for Dripping Springs. Working closely with the Steering Committee, we decided on a different approach.

Many comp plans contain vision statements, something I tend to shy away from. Why? Because they tend to be fluffy, meaningless statements along the lines of 'Our Town aspires to be a community of diversity, opportunity, blah blah blah.' About as meaningful as Garrison Keillor's 'Where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average'. We decided instead of a Vision Statement that wouldn't really drive anything, we would identify key values of the community and use that as the basis for the plan.

So, we have a Values Based Plan. The values we identified include: Dripping Springs is an Active Community, Dripping Springs has a Vibrant Economy, Dripping Springs is a Community that Cherishes its Unique Heritage, and several others. The goals and recommendations of the plan are organized within this structure. Its a little different approach that works well with the community and provides a unique plan for Dripping Springs.

As planners (and with life in general) its easy to get in a rut and turn to boiler plate solutions that worked in the past. Its easier to be uncreative and utilize what worked in the past rather than thinking in a new way and taking a different approach. Our communities, and our profession will be better off if we look to new solutions, new opportunities, and new ways of approaching the problems facing our communities.

No comments:

Post a Comment