Outstanding Achievement in County Planning Awards

2013 Winners

On April 14, 2013, at the County Planning Division's Annual Business Meeting, conducted at the APA National Conference in Chicago, the County Planning Division in conjunction with the National Association of County Planners will present their 2013 Project Awards. This year six awards will be presented: three Awards of Excellence and three Awards of Merit.

An Award of Excellence to The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission, Florida, in the Best Practices category for the Guide to Creating & Updating Community Plans in Unincorporated Hillsborough County. The Guide crystallizes the rational, roles, process, and structure of newly created community plans and plan updates in urban, suburban and rural contexts.  Planning staff and community use of the Guide is intended to enhance the effectiveness of community plans in shaping ... distinct, vibrant and lasting communities.

An Award of Excellence to Clark County, Washington, in the Special Focus Planning Initiative — Senior Livability category for the Aging Readiness Plan. Affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and transportation options help create places where everyone has the opportunity to live independently and participate in civic and social life as they age. The Clark County Aging Readiness Plan assesses the county's readiness to serve as a home for a growing number of older residents. The plan is divided into five elements: healthy communities, housing, transportation/mobility, supportive services and community engagement. Each element identifies challenges residents may face as they grow older and lists strategies to overcome them.

An Award of Excellence to Howard County, Maryland, in the Small Area/Special Area Planning category for the Downtown Columbia Plan. The Downtown Columbia Plan is a 30-year master plan for evolving Columbia's suburban oriented Town Center into a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable urban community. Following an extensive planning and community engagement process, the Howard County Council approved the Downtown Columbia Plan on February 1, 2010, and readopted it in the County's July 20, 2012, general plan update. The Downtown Columbia Plan will guide the mixed-use development of over 13 million feet of retail, commercial, residential, hotel and cultural development.

An Award of Merit to McHenry County, Illinois, in the Best Practices category for the Green Infrastructure Plan.  The McHenry County Green Infrastructure Plan is the result of a comprehensive planning effort to identify, promote, protect, and enhance McHenry County's green infrastructure resource areas.  It was developed with contributions of natural resource and land management experts, municipalities, townships, park districts, and local citizens.  The plan features the first countywide green infrastructure map and offers numerous recommendations for implementation at the regional, community, and neighborhood scale.

An Award of Merit to Sarasota County, Florida, in the Planning Project category for Nathan Benderson Park.  Nathan Benderson Park is located in unincorporated Sarasota County. This county park used by a handful of local fishermen was once an unimproved borrow pit lake originally created to serve road construction needs in the region. Today, it's being transformed into a 600-acre regional park that includes a world-class rowing venue with the potential to attract international visitors to Sarasota County, while still serving the local community.

An Award of Merit to Richland County, South Carolina, in the Grass Roots Initiative category for the 8th Annual Neighborhood Planning Conference. The Richland County Council and the Planning and Development Services Department has made it a priority to address the struggling nature of urban communities and rural neighborhoods throughout the County and created the Neighborhood Improvement Program to address those challenges head-on. "The Neighborhood Planning Conference" emerged from this effort as a grassroots level conference that extends beyond the traditional scope of planning, broadens public understanding of the planning process, provides neighborhood outreach initiatives and fulfills unique educational programs designed for special populations. The 8th Annual Neighborhood Planning Conference provided an unparalleled service to over 200 participants.

2012 Winners

On April 15, 2012, at the County Planning Division's Business Meeting, conducted at the APA National Conference in Los Angeles, the County Planning Division in conjunction with the National Association of County Planners presented their 2012 Project Awards. This year three awards were presented, two Awards of Excellence and one Award of Merit.

An Award of Excellence was presented to Charlotte — Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, in the Small Area/Special Area Planning category for their Elizabeth Area Plan. The Elizabeth Area Plan was developed over an 18-month period and included a thorough analysis of the opportunities, challenges, goals, and vision for the community. It provides succinct direction for land use, transportation, community design, infrastructure and public facilities, and environmental policies through the use of text, maps, and graphics. A stakeholder group was integral in the development of the plan document and provided thorough review and comment on the draft plan. Their comments were addressed by staff in the final document adopted on November 14, 2011.

An Award of Excellence was presented to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in the Best Practices category for their Model Ordinance Series. The Model Ordinance Series provides a comprehensive and easy to use set of tools for the County and its municipalities to foster sound land use development. The publications provide the user with an explanation of the pertinent land use issues to be addressed by each model. Also a clear description of design elements that should be incorporated to address the topic of each model ordinance is described through numerous photographs and illustrations. The layout of each model ordinance document makes it easy to understand the purpose of various standards and criteria used in the model and how to modify them to better meet any local concerns. Effective aerial photographic illustrations clearly depict suitable locations for types of land uses and how individual development projects can be designed to achieve overall community goals. Various forms of computer simulated site design are used to illustrate key design concepts within each model.

An Award of Merit was presented to Westchester County, New York, in the Best Practices category for their Homeseeker Website. The Homeseeker Website provides a straightforward comprehensive tool for outreach to broad communities and diverse populations and to provide information that makes it easy for potential "homeseekers" to take advantage of the homeownership and rental affordable housing opportunities offered in the County. With the click of a mouse, visitors discover a wealth of information about the homes, the neighborhoods, financial eligibility requirements, affiliated housing resources and counseling agencies, and can view the housing site they select in Bing maps to experience a virtual satellite-view tour of the very community they are considering moving into.

2011 Winners

On April 10, 2011, at the County Planning Division's Business Meeting conducted at the APA National Conference in Boston, the County Planning Division in conjunction with the National Association of County Planners presented their 2011 Project Awards. This year three awards were presented, one Award of Excellence and two Awards of Merit.

The Award of Excellence was presented to Charlotte – Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in the Small Area/Special Area Planning category for their Area Plan Implementation Program. The Area Plan Implementation Program is a system created to inventory, analyze, track, and implement capital projects as well as other recommendations originating from adopted Area Plans. It began from the need to follow-through on the community's planning vision that was developed during a lengthy and in-depth planning process. The program established annual bond funding for area plan capital project implementation, enhanced information sharing amongst public service providers, and has resulted in the construction of a number of projects.

The Awards of Merit were presented to Henrico County, Virginia, in the Grass Roots Initiative category for their Homeowner's Enhancement Guide and to Riley County, Kansas, in the Best Practices category for their Vision 2025 – A Comprehensive Plan for Riley County, Kansas. The Homeowner's Enhancement Guide is intended as a means of maintaining the stability and desirability of mature neighborhoods. The Homeowner's Enhancement Guide is a how-to handbook intended for homeowners and prospective purchasers of older homes, which may be in need of modernization and enhancement. The Guide is a tool for homeowners and prospective purchasers of mature homes that assist in the processes of adding character, modernizing, and improving livability through improvements at various ranges of cost. The Vision 2025 – A Comprehensive Plan for Riley County, Kansas provides the guidance to ensure the continued viability of the agricultural sector within the county while allowing compatible residential growth in appropriate areas. Developed over a 20-month time span by a representative steering committee with the guidance of facilitators and staff, the plan includes unique features such as a statement of property rights principles, an exclusive agricultural district, a uniquely tailored Land Evaluation Site Assessment System and an innovative Surrounding Agricultural Land Easement to protect agricultural operators.

2010 Winners

The 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, 2010. 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."