County Planning Awards Announced

County Planning Awards AnnouncedThe County Planning Division of the American Planning Association and the National Association of County Planners (an affiliate of the National Association of Counties) presented their first annual “Excellence in County Planning” awards during their annual meeting in New Orleans on April 11. The selection committee received numerous submittals from counties across the United States, and ultimately selected three projects for recognition.

Gwinnett County, located in the greater Atlanta area, was recognized for a very ambitious and detailed 2030 Unified Plan that incorporates excellent data and implementation steps to address a variety of issues that this high-growth area currently faces. The awards committee was particularly impressed with the scope of the project, as well as the outreach efforts including the website. Nancy Lovingood, manager of long-range planning for the county, accepted the award along with project consultant Holiday Collins Storck from PB Placemaking, and delivered a presentation that provided additional details about the planning process and current status of the plan implementation.

Gaston County, located in the growing Charlotte metro area, was recognized for a Unified Development Ordinance that was established through an inclusive process involving a wide variety of stakeholders. The awards committee was impressed with the county’s effort to move ahead, while retaining history and character through creative implementation of planning principles and public participation. David Williams, the Gaston County Planning Director, accepted the award and said the expectations for the project were high. “We were charged to “raise the bar” by enhancing development standards to promote quality development, livability, consistency with other existing policies while protecting our tax base.”

The Mountain Landscapes Initiative, a project managed by the Southwestern Commission and consulting firm The Lawrence Group, developed a detailed reference guide for local governments, officials, citizens, and developers to improve development practices in six rural counties located in western North Carolina. The project was recognized for its extensive public engagement process and transferability to other rural areas. Judy Francis, County Planning Division Chair-Elect, accepted the award on behalf of the Southwestern Commission and the Lawrence Group, and commented that “creative land use planning is not just a function of the metropolis. Some of the best work being done throughout the country is in rural areas that have never undertaken comprehensive planning before, but are now concerned about the impacts of inappropriate development on dearly loved landscapes.”

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