County Planning Division Project Awards Program

On April 4, 2016, at the County Planning Division's Annual Business Meeting, conducted at the APA National Conference in Phoenix, the County Planning Division in conjunction with the National Association of County Planners presented their 2016 Project Awards. This year there was one Award of Excellence winner.

An Award of Excellence went to Kenton County, Kentucky, in the Comprehensive Plan – Large Jurisdiction category for their Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice

The planning commission adopted the community’s first comprehensive plan in 1972 and incorporated updates every five years thereafter per Kentucky law.  The combined 26.2-pound, 12.5-inch-thick behemoth influenced decisions until the Great Recession established its ‘New Normal.’  Planners developed its replacement — Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. — through an aggressive three-year public engagement process.  That process accomplished what many thought previously would be impossible: to build consensus among all 126 elected officials and 20 planning commission members.  They grounded the plan in research provided by a national market analyst, most of it from sources bankers use for reviewing development-financing strategies.  This established the plan as a unique resource for near-term development proposals and a baseline for state-mandated five-year updates.  Stakeholders played a critical role in crafting a number of its innovative policies.  Their opposition to broad recommendations prompted planners to divide the County into four subareas — urban, first‐ring suburb, suburban, and rural — to reflect the community’s diversity.  Policies are based now on the differing lifestyles found across these subareas.  They advocated for an easy-to-use final product.  Planners responded with an online comprehensive plan ( that documents the plan’s creation, delivers guidance to anyone anywhere 24/7/365, and incorporates GIS technologies to invite users to interact with its contents.

Project Categories

Planning Project Award

To a specific physical planning project of unusually high merit conducted by a county that is in the process of being constructed or has been constructed within the last two years.  The project should demonstrate "on-the ground" results that are supported by documentable physical or social change.

Comprehensive Plan Award

Large Jurisdiction:  For a comprehensive plan of unusually high merit completed and adopted by a county within the last two years for, by or within a jurisdiction with the most recent Census population of 50,000 or more.

Small Jurisdiction:  For a comprehensive plan of unusually high merit completed and adopted by a county within the last two years, for, by or within a jurisdiction with the most recent Census population of less than 50,000.

Best Practices Award

For a specific planning tool, practice, program, project, or process that is a significant advancement to specific elements of planning.  This category emphasizes results and demonstrates how innovative and state-of-the-art planning methods and practices helped to implement a plan.  Nominations may include such things as ordinances, regulations, legislation, adopted policy and codes, tax policies or initiatives, growth management or design guidelines, transferable development rights program, land acquisition efforts, public/private partnerships, applications of technology, handbooks, or efforts to foster greater participation in community planning.

Grassroots Initiative Award

For an initiative that illustrates how a community utilized the planning process to address a need that extends beyond the traditional scope of planning.  Emphasis is placed on the success of planning in new or different settings.  Nominated projects should expand public understanding of the planning process.  This could include such efforts as community policing or drug prevention, neighborhood outreach initiatives, programs designed for special populations, rural development, public art or cultural efforts, community festivals, environmental or conservation initiatives, summer recreational initiatives for children, or focused tourism ventures.

Small Area/Special Area Planning Award

This award will go to a small area/special area plan, program, design, or related effort that demonstrates innovative planning principles and measures that create sustainable communities that have lasting value.

Special Focus Planning Initiative – Senior Livability

A current special focus area of the APA Divisions Council is the concept of senior livability and how communities are preparing for an aging population. This award will recognize a county that has incorporated "aging in place" considerations into the planning process and has demonstrated a commitment to involving senior citizens in the planning and implementation process to identify their specific needs.

Nominations will be evaluated for the award category in which they are submitted.  However, the Awards Committee may upon majority vote move a nomination to a different category, if appropriate.  Only one Award of Excellence and one Award of Merit may be granted per category each year.  If the Awards Committee finds that none of the nominations in a particular category meets the desirable standards, they may grant no award in that category for that year.

Previous Winners

See a list of the previous winners