County Planning Division Project Awards

The County Planning Division (CPD) and the National Association of County Planners (NACP) are pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Project Awards. Awards recognize outstanding planning projects from counties around the country, and allow members to learn about development, conservation, government, or environmental projects in which planning has positively impacted the outcome.

Winners will be recognized on April 23, 2018, at the County Planning Division business meeting at the 2018 National Planning Conference in New Orleans. This year, four awards will be presented: three Awards of Excellence and one Award of Merit.

Awards of Excellence

Special Focus Planning Initiative — County Holistic Innovation Project

Thurston Climate Adaptation Plan

Thurston County, WA

The Thurston Climate Adaptation Plan used sound scientific modeling and analysis, replicable decision-support methods, and innovative public-engagement tools — including a board game, prison symposium, and pop-up library at an arts festival — to develop and promote actions to help Thurston County and the broader South Puget Sound region prepare for and adjust to climate change. Such "adaptation" actions — for municipalities, tribes, businesses, households, and other stakeholders - will improve the community's hazard resilience and social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

The plan's vulnerability assessment incorporates University of Washington Climate Impacts Group data and analysis, which are based on climate modeling that utilizes emissions scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Thurston Regional Planning Council used the information to create maps that show historical and projected changes in climate indicators (precipitation, streamflow, runoff, snowpack, etc.) across South Puget Sound watersheds. The vulnerability assessment also describes how the region's human health and welfare, as well as highways, municipal water systems, forests, estuaries, and other built and natural "assets" within Thurston County are vulnerable to the collective impacts of natural hazards (e.g., wildfires, landslides, floods) and human-caused stressors (e.g., water pollution) exacerbated by climate change.

The project team (composed of Thurston Regional Planning Council and Thurston County staff) and its Stakeholder Advisory Committee (composed of public- and private-sector representatives) adapted a U.S. EPA methodology to evaluate how 85 risks identified in the vulnerability assessment affect the community's ability to achieve 12 key sustainability goals. The project team and stakeholder committee then incorporated significant public input to develop and prioritize 91 adaptation actions that respond to climate risks of highest likelihood and consequence of occurrence.

Best Practices

Osceola County Strategy for a Sustainable Future

Osceola County, FL

Just over a decade ago, Osceola County decided to change its direction from a bedroom community to a self-sustaining community. A series of innovative smart growth plans were put into place. These have included the re-planning of some of the largest greenfield areas (over 70,000 acres) and the Deseret Ranch property (300,000 acres) as well as one of the largest redevelopment plans in the nation, W192 (15 miles between Disney and Kissimmee, generating 8 million dollars of TIF financing a year), a new transportation plan which resulted in a new mobility fee, BRT and a new commuter rail system, code language (neighborhoods, transit oriented development, land uses, signage, etc.) and the repositioning of over 30 commercial centers to represent the new trends in retail. The Osceola Strategy for a Sustainable Future plan uses indicators and metrics designed to measure existing plans and gauge their effectiveness. The Plan was written and adopted in 2017 to illustrate a benchmark of existing conditions and to identify the effectiveness of planning policy to improve economic, environmental, social and balanced fiscal sustainability.

In November of 2017, this plan was influential in the County Commissioner's decision to mandate a six-month single-family housing moratorium. The plan specifically addresses the issues with housing affordability in Osceola County due to the abundance of residents who work for Disney World (Orange County) and live in Osceola County. The plan stresses the need for an intense mix of land uses versus the existing homogeneity of land uses in non-mixed-use areas.

While housing is a key issue identified in the document, the plan approach of identifying the interconnected nature of sustainable factors related to housing. For example, if the supply of affordable housing increases then the local jobs to housing ratio becomes more balanced and you reduce the number of residents commuting. If neighborhood connectivity is improved then you reduce the cost of community services, etc. Overall, the plan provides an easy to understand targeted benchmark of Osceola's current state and the plans in place to improve sustainability Countywide. The indicators can be measured at different intervals to identify progress and to help identify policy performance.

Comprehensive Plan, Large Jurisdiction

Plan Chatham: Chatham County Comprehensive Plan

Chatham County, NC

The Chatham County Comprehensive Plan was created to be forward thinking in preparation for managing rapid growth all the while, supporting its rural character. It examined the existing growth as well as the impacts of anticipated large development projects such as Chatham Park proposed 7,000+ acre development in the Pittsboro's Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and the unfolding of two certified mega sites outside of Siler City and Moncure. The Comprehensive Plan's development process started in fall of 2015 when the County contracted with the consulting firm Land Design, to work with staff and regularly meet with a steering committee appointed by the Board of Commissioners. The steering committee consisted of representatives from 12 specialized local advisory boards, committees, and commissions and met regularly throughout the process to guide the different elements, discuss the framework of the plan, and provide input on recommendations and priorities for the County.

Simultaneous and critical to the development process, there was also an extensive effort to engage residents. Being located in the center of the state, the County has divided news sources. Staff and the consultants gathered meaningful feedback in a variety of ways to ensure participation for all. During the development of the plan, two social media accounts, an interactive website, a meeting in a box tool, and three surveys were created to gather further detailed input. Staff and the consultants met with numerous stakeholders and focus groups, as well as presented to communities, interest groups, and coordinated info booths at local events. Additionally, in June of 2016 and February of 2017, 6 public input meetings were heavily advertised for residents and business owners to attend throughout the entire county.

In March of 2017, staff coordinated and presented the final recommendations to numerous groups at their regular meetings. The Plan was presented to the Board of Commissioners in August of 2017 and thoroughly vetted by the Planning Board in the Fall of 2017, resulting in widespread support and Board of Commissioners adoption of the plan on November 20, 2017.

Awards of Merit

Comprehensive Plan, Small Jurisdiction

2025 Transylvania County Comprehensive Plan

Transylvania County, NC

The Transylvania County Comprehensive Plan Plan was produced in-house following an extensive two-year collaborative planning process involving the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners, Transylvania County Planning Board, Transylvania County Planning Department and over 60 volunteers or "community advocates" representing a broad spectrum of individuals, community organizations, religious institutions, economic and business interests, and many different geographical areas of the County.

Public participation was significant and involved over 30 community meetings and events, social media campaigns, and a widely distributed survey; all of which together represented input from approximately 10% of the County's population. The Planning Board and Staff hosted a kick-off community event with over 100 citizens participating where the video "Transylvania County 2025 Comprehensive Plan" was screened and public participation began. The video was developed to reach the computer savvy and millennial populations. At the end of the meeting, participants identified priorities that Staff used to create two word clouds that visually communicated community concerns in subsequent documents and outreach.

In addition to using the priorities identified through the public input process, the 2016 American Planning Association (APA) principles found in Sustaining Places: Best Practices for Comprehensive Plans were also incorporated into the Plan. Although the County was not one of the pilot jurisdictions used by APA to create the sustaining places principles, the County went beyond the traditional comprehensive plan that focuses on land use and physical development to create a more modern plan by engaging the community and addressing resilience, health, equity, quality of life and plan implementation. Staff collected baseline data on the current conditions for land use, economic trends, natural resources, population, housing and community services. The data was portrayed in narrative, images and maps to help the Planning Board, Board of Commissioners and the public access and interpret the information. The resulting Plan, unanimously approved by the Planning Board and subsequently the Board of Commissioners, synthesized diverse community feedback into narrative and action steps that intentionally represents the County's many different needs and values.


Previous Winners

See all past winners of the County Planning Division Project Awards