APA Ambassador Helps Washington State Students Affect Local Planning

On January 15, 2016, I shared the first of two planning-related sessions with my colleague, Travis Goddard. We exposed Othello High School (OHS) upper division classmates to basic land use concepts with the option to participate in the local planning process by providing comments to our guided discussion.

Travis Goddard introducing land use concepts to students at Othello High School. Photo by Dee Caputo.

Travis is the Community Development Director for Othello. He currently is leading the city in updating its comprehensive plan. This update is funded by a Community Development Block Grant under the Planning-Only program.

The city of Othello is one of my assigned communities within Eastern Washington. I provide technical and financial assistance to the city through my job at Washington State Department's Growth Management Services.

Barb Taylor, the OHS instructor who welcomed our inquiry to come speak to her students, also requested we share our personal stories about attending college. Her students are poised to pursue further studies in institutions of higher learning. We hoped they would profit from hearing about our respective experiences.

Travis Goddard talking with Othello city staff. Photo by Dee Caputo.

This event was divided between a morning and afternoon session. In the morning, we focused on discussing the framework for community planning and described the educational paths we each took to become planners. Our afternoon activity relied on students breaking into small groups to focus on a series of posed questions and then reporting back to the entire group about respective responses.

Travis provided each breakout group a series of maps destined to be used within the Parks and Recreation element of the comprehensive plan to illustrate locations and hierarchy of park types. Park types included neighborhood, community and regional parks, depending on area and population served. Zoning and other details were also depicted.

Students in breakout groups. Photo by Dee Caputo.

Students outlined various options that the city might explore during the next 20 years to help shape Othello as a healthy community. They were asked to comment on facilities and services currently available within existing parks, and to propose additional locations and alternative activities in the future for Othello's parks.

Students were reminded to think about various uses for others within different stages of the human life cycle, as well. We also discussed available options within the community for walking and biking.

Prior to this exercise, we asked students to demonstrate individual preferences about certain values by having them stand in a corner of the room that best represented their desired position. Students visibly were able to grasp a range in different (community) values, further expressed by classmates and their teacher during follow up discussion.

Land use drawings from the activity. Photo by Dee Caputo.

Remarks and comments generated by these students during this event will help inform elected and appointed city officials as they move forward in completing Othello's comprehensive plan update. The community plan will contain direct reference to these students' input.

Another positive outcome of this venture is that Travis Goddard was invited to return to Othello High School to help teach future civics classes.

Top image: Travis Goddard with OHS students. Photo by Dee Caputo.

About the Author
Dee Caputo, AICP, is a senior planner for the Washington State Department of Commerce.

November 11, 2016

By Dee Caputo, FAICP