The Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association recently granted the Jefferson County Planning & Zoning Division a 2019 Merit Award for Comprehensive Planning on a Small Budget. Jefferson County’s Comprehensive Master Plan is evaluated every 5-10 years for the need to update, with the goal of keeping a current and dynamic plan. To determine the most recent update, county staff completed a unique process that received statewide recognition.
The project included staff analysis of five factors: areas of development pressure, community responses, age of the plans, other projects occurring or anticipated within the county, and consistency of recent development proposals with the plan’s recommendations. This project also involved collaboration of several different county divisions.
Results of this analysis indicated that one of the area plans, the South Plains area, was the oldest, facing the most development pressure and had development proposals least consistent with the plan recommendations. Additionally, there were opportunities with upcoming projects that supported the update of two general elements of the plan, water and mixed use.
In order to promote both the process and the final outcome, the Jefferson County Planning & Zoning Division worked closely with the county’s Public Affairs team. Public Affairs was able to publicize this project through various social media outlets and this will be one of the pilot projects for a new OpenGov platform to promote community education and engagement. With the help of Public Affairs, staff held four community meetings during the process and developed a survey that solicited 1400 responses.
This project was innovative because it included thorough analysis of a variety of factors to determine what portion of the plan needed to be updated. In the recent past, the county mainly determined what portion of the plan needed to be updated simply by the age of the plan, highest number of development cases, or most vocal community members. With this project, the county looked at those factors, but also included input from internal and external agencies and consistency of development proposals with the plan recommendations. Additionally, a survey was conducted, and community meetings held to assess broad public opinion, not just the loudest voices. The public outreach sessions were designed to reach a wider range of people by involving a variety of county divisions. Citizens could get answers to questions related to planning, engineering, zoning enforcement, open space, drainage, and roads because subject experts from the Planning & Zoning, Open Space and Transportation & Engineering Divisions were available at each meeting.
The county also used technology to guide the outcomes by using ArcGIS and ArcGIS Story Map. ArcGIS was used to determine “hot spots” for development in the county. ArcGIS Story Map interactively showed current projects juxtaposed with the current plan’s land use recommendations to show how they complied or did not comply.
Many decision-makers look for data to make decisions about how to allocate their resources. This project gave decision-makers needed data by having information such as development hot spots and age of plans, along with human perception that was quantified though meeting and survey results. This project was both economical and gave solid information to determine what portion of the Comprehensive Master Plan to update.