Located within North Carolina’s “Research Triangle,” the Town of Cary is an affluent suburb of Raleigh, the state’s capital, with a reputation for its progressive approach to development and planning. After experiencing thirty years of strong growth, community leaders recognized that current economic and demographic trends needed to be addressed to maintain the community’s high quality-of-life. Working with Clarion Associates and Planning NEXT, the Town designed and conducted a process, which came to be known as “Imagine Cary” to connect its many specific topic plans into a single, integrated, and comprehensive policy guide for the future.
Enthusiasm for the process
Enthusiasm for the process was felt immediately when, after advertising a call to serve on the citizen steering committee, over 400 people applied. Once established, this group helped the planning team execute a robust publicity and outreach campaign to get the community involved. Later in the process, the committee drafted the Plan’s vision and values statements.
flyers & posters, newspaper ads, press releases, email, videos, social media, festival appearances, presentations to civic groups, corporate partners
Extensive publicity and outreach activities ensured that all citizens were aware of the opportunities to get involved and made participation a choice.
Engagement in big numbers
The public kickoff event, the Summit on the Future, was the largest public meeting in the town’s history, and one of the largest ever in the State. Close to 800 Cary residents provided their input on issues facing the community. Keypad polling showed participants, in real-time, what they collectively thought about issues. The kickoff was followed by a series of Area Conversations and Policy Choices Workshops which included opportunities to participate online.
Innovative Online Activities
A major element of the Imagine Cary process was a robust project website that has served a major role in the project’s publicity effort, providing up-to-date information and resources about the project. But its most impressive task was to provide an alternative way to gather meaningful community input.
For the Policy Choices Workshops, Planning NEXT developed a custom online application that mirrored activities conducted on paper response forms. Participants at the workshops could respond using traditional paper forms or with their own tablet computers via this web tool. The online activity continued to collect input for several weeks following the initial in-person workshops.
Project Type: comprehensive plan
Community Type: mid-size city, suburb
Client: Town of Cary
Services: pre-planning, public engagement, social media and online engagement