Changing times call for bold, innovative initiatives moving forward. This is the exact approach Gwinnett County adopted when they decided to undertake the Gwinnett County 2030 Unified Plan.
With such a complex future awaiting the county and the region, Gwinnett County knew they needed a new type of comprehensive plan that could serve as a true guide to decision making that affected all aspects of Gwinnett life. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Gwinnett County was recently awarded the 2010 Outstanding Achievement in County Planning Award by the National Association of County Planners and The County Planning Division of the American Planning Association for their 2030 Unified Plan.
A panel of members from the National Association of County Planners and the County Planning Division of APA evaluated the plan according to the following criteria:
- Originality – To what extent does the submission present a visionary approach or innovative concept that results in a meaningful advancement of the planning process?
- Transferability – To what extent is there a potential application in other areas or to other projects? How does this work increase our understanding of planning principles?
- Quality – To what extent is there excellence in thought, writing, analysis, graphics and ethical planning principles?
- Implementation – To what extent is the plan or program effective as evidenced by its degree of post-completion or post-adoption activity?
- Comprehensiveness – To what extent have planning principles been observed, especially in considering the plan’s / project’s effects on other public objectives?
Upon plan review it is undoubtedly apparent what makes the Gwinnett County 2030 Unified Plan worthy of this award. The Unified Plan consists of three major components that are usually separately conceived and only loosely coordinated – the state required Comprehensive Plan, the state required Comprehensive Transportation Plan and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) required Consolidated Housing Plan.
The Unified Plan emerged through a process that developed each plan component simultaneously and required each to inform and respond to the needs of the others. The result is a plan that truly maintains a regional perspective.
The plan stands apart in that it is anchored in fiscal realities. Through the planning process, a rigorous fiscal and economic analysis was employed to forecast the future fiscal impact of various development patterns, in order to suggest the policies needed to improve the fiscal health of the county under each scenario. And a significant portion of the plan is dedicated to detailed coordination and implementation measures that hold parties accountable for all three initiatives’ priorities, phasing and funding.
While the Comprehensive Plan is the core of the Gwinnett County 2030 Unified Plan, the plan is extraordinarily rich in transportation and housing-related analysis and policies – a direct result of this forward-thinking coordination. Key land use priorities are embedded in the Comprehensive Transportation Plan component. Key housing and community development policies, which reach far beyond just the land use aspect of housing, are also consistently found embedded in this Unified Plan.
The traditional approach to a jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan is to compile and present a number of separate topics – such as land use, transportation, open space, parks and recreation – in a way that isolates topics from other issues that they affect. Through their Unified Plan, Gwinnett County took an innovative approach to this step. Instead of dividing these topics into the traditional isolated elements, the plan organizes its recommendations on the basis of five easy to understand themes that enable the comprehensive discussion of all relating issues: 1) Maintain Economic Development and Fiscal Health; 2) Foster Redevelopment; 3) Maintain Mobility and Accessibility; 4) Provide More Housing Choices; 5) Keep Gwinnett a ‘Preferred Place’.
Coming into the planning process Gwinnett County recognized the need to adequately address the County’s changing demography and economy in a way past comprehensive plans have not done. The result is an innovative and creative plan that will successfully lead the County into the future.
The Gwinnett County 2030 Unified Plan can be viewed here.