At the 2018 Fall Conference, the American Planning Association Georgia Chapter awarded Envision Athens with the Outstanding Planning Process Award—recognizing the quality and completeness of the overall planning process. The conference took place on September 5-7 in Jekyll Island. Those there to accept the award included Erin Barger, Envision Athens Project Manager; Sharyn Dickerson, District 1 Commissioner; Bruce Lonnee, ACC Senior Planner; and our own Kyle May, Planning NEXT Senior Planner.
Focus criteria for the award included emphasis on public involvement, transferability, equity, sustainability, and technology. The Envision Athens process met and exceled in all award criteria. Highlights from the award-winning plan include:
Quality and complete overall planning process. Envision Athens ensured a quality and complete process by approaching engagement with the goal of making participation a choice for anyone in the community.
Comprehensive technical and data analysis. The comprehensive technical and data analysis for Envision Athens included two major tasks—conducting a thoughtful community assessment and strategically researching and analyzing target focus issues within the community. Conclusions from this work served as the undergirding for plan recommendations.
Robust stakeholder and community outreach. Envision Athens was guided by a 38-member Steering Committee. Public outreach and engagement were vital throughout the process. A series of publicized workshops, meetings and online activities attracted more than 1,000 participants and collected over 5,500 community comments.
Aspirational documentation and deliverables. The final plan was aspirational and represented the ideas of thousands of citizens and stakeholders. The Action Agenda prioritized the projects, policies and programs selected through the process. In five topical chapters, the plan addressed pressing challenges and key opportunities related to: land use, environment, neighborhoods, housing, agriculture, economic development, education, health, safety, social services, arts and culture, civic engagement, transportation, and infrastructure.
Well-positioned for implementation. The Envision Athens Action Agenda was completed in January 2018, and significant traction is already being felt. Planning NEXT has been re-engaged to assist with implementation efforts, and a project manager has been hired to organize action and move conversations forward. It is clear—the community is uniting behind the plan and stakeholders are finding a place to contribute. Task forces have been organized and more than 100 follow-up conversations have convened to establish implementing parties. More than 25 of the plan’s 103 actions are already underway, and a County Comprehensive Plan has been completed using the Envision Athens goals and recommendations as its foundation.
To learn more about Envision Athens, visit: envisionathens.com.