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Guiding Principles for Conducting a Successful Comprehensive
Planning Process for the City of Albany Vision 2020: 

 

Creating a Vision for Enhancing the Quality of Life for Residents

and Establishing Albany as a World-Class Destination

 

 

Background

On December 3, 2005, the Neighborhood Resource Center sponsored the 6th annual “Albany Neighborhood Works” Conference.  The conference sessions highlighted the benefits of the comprehensive planning process, and speakers discussed how the current approach to planning in Albany could be strengthened.  The City of Albany Administration subsequently announced that it supports initiating a comprehensive planning process.  CANA established a “Comprehensive Plan Task Force” made up of conference participants who were charged with conducting research on comprehensive planning processes and submitting recommendations to CANA for its use in advising the Common Council and the City Administration as they initiate the comprehensive planning process.  The Task Force has researched communities comparable to Albany, and submits the following document which sets forth “best practices” for the comprehensive planning process.

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Proposal for a Process to Develop a Comprehensive Plan:  The Common

Council of the City of Albany establishes and designates the Albany Comprehensive Plan Committee (ACPC).  The ACPC leads a public-consensus-driven planning process to identify a city-wide vision and major organizing themes for city actions over the next 10 to15 years.  The ACPC will produce the draft Comprehensive Plan and a report in conjunction with consultants, and present the report and its recommendations to the Common Council and Mayor for Common Council adoption.

 

The Common Council directs the process as lead agency:  Common Council appoints a Comprehensive Plan Committee which is a diverse, representative body of Albany’s population.

 

Extensive public participation is the basis for this process:  All session, and meetings of committees and subcommittees throughout the process are open to public participation.

 

The process takes existing neighborhood, civic and institutional master plans into consideration.

 

The Committee determines the strategic actions and organizations to carry out the Plan. 

 

The Plan includes a framework for periodic updates.

 

The City begins fully funding the process in its next annual budget.



Guiding Principles for Conducting a Successful Comprehensive
Planning Process for the City of Albany Vision 2020: 

 

Creating a Vision for Enhancing the Quality of Life for Residents

and Establishing Albany as a World-Class Destination

 

 

Proposal for a Process to Develop a Comprehensive Plan:  The Common

Council of the City of Albany establishes and designates the Albany Comprehensive Plan Committee (ACPC).  The ACPC leads a public-consensus-driven planning process on behalf of the Common Council to identify a city-wide vision and major organizing themes for city actions over the next 10 to15 years.  The ACPC will produce the draft Comprehensive Plan and a report in conjunction with consultants, and present the report and its recommendations to the Common Council and Mayor for Common Council adoption.

 

 

I.  APPROACH AND PROCESS

 

A.  As official entity, the Common Council selects a diverse, balanced group to be the Albany Comprehensive Plan Committee (ACPC).  The Common Council appoints all volunteer members of the committee and designates the Committee’s purpose, mission, and work time table.   The City Department of Planning and Economic Development works directly with the Committee.  Professional consultants are hired to guide the process, provide expertise and ensure that the planning process and products are delivered in a timely fashion.

 

B.  The City allocates a significant, ongoing budget to invest in this city-wide planning process.  This ensures that a sufficient budget is available to retain an experienced, professional planning and design firm.  The City conducts a Request for Qualifications process before selecting the short list of firms to prepare competitive proposals including a detailed scope of services and estimated costs.  The overall project budget provides a sufficient planning project budget to ensure extensive public participation throughout the entire process. 

 

C.  The project is carried out within a well-paced time frame of 18 to 24 months.  This includes monthly ACPC meetings at a minimum, and several series of public, neighborhood-based public workshops and planning sessions to support direct public participation in developing design and planning strategies.  The Committee adopts an open door policy for all task force meetings, with ample time allowed for public comments.  Members of the public are invited to participate in subcommittees or working groups.

 

D.  The framework establishes strong leadership, clear responsibilities and coordination among the Committee, consultants, planning staff and the Common Council.

E.  City of Albany Planning and Development Initiatives—Past, Current and Future.  In order to avoid incongruities, the Committee considers the existing or developing neighborhood, civic and institutional master plans.  Any conflicting elements are resolved before the comprehensive plan process is complete. 

      For future planning and development proposals, the ACPC will be apprised of all major proposals in the “pipeline” that are before the Common Council or any City agency.  A formal mechanism for ensuring communication among the entities must be developed. 

 

F.  Key Elements of the Planning Process:  In order to benefit from the range of insights of among residents, from native and long-term residents to those who have recently chosen Albany as their home, it is crucial to begin the process with a round of outreach sessions.  There are two main objectives:  1.  To explain the planning process to residents, and 2. To begin to gather information from residents about their assessment of and hopes for Albany. 

1.  Prepare and present an analysis of existing conditions.  Note that the understanding and analysis will grow by engaging with the public and ACPC to expand and flesh out the understanding.

2.  Develop themes that express:

      Strengths of the City

      Needs and Opportunities

      Topics of highest priority

3.  Develop action plans to meet the goals of each major theme. The elements of the action plans are defined as clearly as are the Plan’s goals and objectives.  The consultants and City staff will suggest which agencies and organizations can assume responsibility for carrying out components of the Plan.

4.  The Comprehensive Plan sets forth a framework for assessing progress and updating the Plan on a regular basis.

5.  Develop draft plan for public review and comment.  The Common Council will be kept informed throughout the process and the final Plan will be presented to the Common Council.

 

 

II.  THE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS

 

A.  Representation on the Albany Comprehensive Planning Committee.  The Committee is large enough to include a variety of perspectives and ensure consistent participation, possibly between 15 and 25 members.  [See section at end for prospective members.]

 

B.  A city-wide announcement and promotion of the planning project will ensure that residents are informed about the project and given ample opportunities to participate.  This outreach to a broad audience is accomplished through media outlets, neighborhood associations, websites, library postings, notices at all public and private schools and community centers and information posted at main public venues and along main thoroughfares. 

C.  Meetings are planned to accommodate a range of work schedules including a mix of day, evening and weekend sessions.

 

D.  Conduct regular reporting and communication back to the public to maintain interest and participation.  Use specific project meetings and hold public sessions including, at minimum:

§          early public participation meetings that are key in helping people learn about the plan and how they are needed to participate;

§          visioning sessions, also early in the process, to gather information about the city at the macro and micro levels; 

§          interim sessions for evaluating draft maps and synthesizing input from all sections of the city into a city-wide vision and city-wide themes;

§          discussions focused on developing action plans to achieve goals and objectives;

§          discussions to report out and review revised action plan for achieving vision;

§          meetings to review implementation steps, estimated costs and potential roles for local agencies and organizations.

 

E.  Consider how to undertake some early implementation by end of project to build confidence and sustain interest in the Comprehensive Plan (apply for grants, initiate a project, etc.).

 

 

III.  Prospective members of Comprehensive Planning Committee:


 

City Residents

Geographic spread across all neighborhoods

People of color

Residents of all age groups including college
     students

Lifelong residents

Newly relocated residents

 

Business Community

Private business leaders

Neighborhood-scale business owners

Lending institutions

Business improvement district staff

Residential and commercial realtor

Tourism

 

Other Professional

Housing advocacy

Arts and culture

Historic preservation

Planning and urban design

Environmentalist

 

 

Institutional & Regional

Colleges/Universities

Medical institutions

Human service agencies

Public and private schools

Public library

 

Local Government

Planning Director

Common Council

Office of General Services

Parks and recreation

Public Safety

 

Regional perspective

Albany County

Capital District Regional Planning Commission

Capital District Transportation Commission

Other municipalities in Albany County

 

New York State OGS as major landowner in city

 


 

Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations         Howard Stoller, Chair

38 Catherine Street, Albany, NY 12202            http://members.tripod.com/councilalbanyna/