The City of Waverly and MSA planners elected to develop not one, not two, but four unique planning documents simultaneously — under the umbrella of one public engagement process. The four documents include an updated Comprehensive Plan, new Bike and Pedestrian Plan, new Park and Open Space Plan, and new Memorial Park Master Plan. The plans complement and overlap in ways unlikely to materialize in a more traditional single-plan approach and offer great opportunity to gain efficiencies, save on cost, amplify public participation, and introduce a new, more all-inclusive approach to community planning.
A robust public engagement campaign was a goal from the start. Outreach centered around the Planning Process Engagement Portal website — a user-friendly and easily searchable hub of content that offered full language translation capabilities. Participants could also choose to receive updates or access surveys by email, text, or both. This meant better inclusion for individuals without internet access. The portal facilitated three online surveys and included an interactive ArcGIS crowdsourcing map, a comprehensive planning FAQs guide, links to the City’s five existing plans, a planning process and projects overview, draft concepts for review, and announcements about upcoming open-house meetings, community workshops and pop-up events. MSA also conducted one-on-one interviews with public and private entities potentially impacted, met regularly with a dedicated Steering Committee and created activities geared specifically for kids to share their park visions with paper and crayons — an activity that reminded everyone of the importance of community planning and its impact on future generations.
Tying plans together ensures revisiting them together. Since comprehensive plans tend to be reviewed with more frequency, what perfect time to also review the plans developed in tandem? While many stand-alone plans find themselves collecting dust in the archives, those created in collaborative fashion with others are less likely to get lost in the shuffle. Overlapping plan development and plan review improves plans’ vitality and relevance — allowing them to remain the living, breathing documents they are intended to be.
Bundling planning efforts also allows the City to look at long-range growth, development, and land use opportunities as a cohesive whole. These things inform where new parks and trails are needed to connect residents with business districts, public services, schools, and transportation hubs. And similarly, the popularity and use of parks and trails can inform where new or different development should transpire. One informs the other, and vice versa. The plans speak each other’s language and listen to each other’s needs.
The result is four community plans working together in one coordinated, symbiotic manner to help guide future development. It is an inventive approach to a conventional practice and an excellent means to help create communities of resilience and lasting value. All four Waverly plans were formally adopted by the City Council on February 20, 2023.
The City of Waverly and planning team of MSA, Toole Design and Councilman-Hunsaker were together chosen to receive the 2023 Best Practice Award from the American Planning Association (APA) of Iowa.