Excellence in Small Town and Rural Planning

Each year the Small Town and Rural Planning Division confers awards for outstanding small town and rural planning work. Four awards were presented in 2015, at the National Planning Conference in Seattle.

Vernon Deines Award for an Outstanding Small Town or Rural Plan

Essence of Athens: A Strategic Plan for Economic Enhancement and Community Competitiveness Plan

Athens, Ohio 

Athens, Ohio, is a small town in southeast Ohio with 3,000 permanent residents, and is home to Ohio University. Athens was a city with no design guidelines of any kind, and partnered with Designing Local and MKSK to help the community create a locally "Essence of Athens" inspired design culture. The Awards Committee was incredibly impressed with this plan, and felt it embodies the best of small town planning. The project was selected for an award due to its innovative approach to creating a uniquely Athens esthetic and design language. The plan is user-friendly and highlights efforts everyone in the community (not just the development community) can do to implement Athens-based design. The plan's unique design encourages people to use it, draw in it, and remember to always put Athens-based design first. The stakeholder engagement process was clearly targeted to ensure representation of all members of the community. STaR is excited to share this plan with other communities as an example of how to build on unique community assents and employ community-based design as an economic development tool. 

Vernon Deines Award for an Outstanding Small Town or Rural Plan

Open Space, Parks & Trails Master Plan

Adams County, Colorado

Adams County is a rapidly growing county on the outskirts of Denver. It has a rich agricultural tradition, and sought to preserve that tradition, as well as connect the more urbanized areas of the county to its rural roots. The plan provides a good example of how rural character can be preserved in the face of rapid urbanization. The project was selected for an award due to its forward thinking and innovative approach to preserving natural areas and connecting urban areas with more rural areas of the county. The plan strikes a balance between different urban and rural community values, and adapts the open space and parks program to the present and future needs of the changing population. STaR is excited to share this plan with other communities as an example of how rural communities can identify corridors and other protectable areas that will preserve their agricultural heritage. 

Merit Award for an Outstanding Small Town or Rural Plan

Harnessing Huntsville's Potential

Huntsville, Texas

Recognizing the tremendous opportunity for growth in Huntsville presented by the expanding Houston Metro area, H-GAC partnered with the City of Huntsville and the Design Workshop team in completing a study that would better position the city for housing and economic improvements. The case study provides local officials and citizens with a clear framework for implementing projects that strategically build upon and strengthen quality of life in Huntsville. The primary goal of the case study was to foster the development of strong, stable neighborhoods within the City of Huntsville while tying this effort to positive branding and the promotion of expanding businesses and development within the city.

This project was chosen for a Merit Award because of its unique case study approach. The committee was impressed with the breadth of strategies outlined in the plan, as well as the extensive business involvement. The plan is well laid-out and the images help make the plan user-friendly.   

James A. Segedy Award for an Outstanding Student Project

Palestine 2040: Honoring the Past — Shaping the Future

University of Texas — Arlington Institute of Urban Studies, Project Lead — Julie Wyatt, Project team — Cristine Baril, Jungsoo Kim, Yanikka Lemons, Kukhyoung Kim, and Glenn Showers.

The City of Palestine, Texas, contracted with the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington beginning December 2013. A team of seven graduate students with the Institute led a public input process which included a public survey, numerous stakeholder interviews, and "hands on" public meetings to help the community develop a creative and achievable comprehensive plan.

The Awards Committee was impressed with the professionalism of the plan and the planning process.  The plan not only includes extensive analysis, but is based on broad citizen input, something that is not often seen in student projects. The document is well organized, and includes helpful graphics, making the document appealing to a wide audience. This plan demonstrates that students can play an important role in planning for small towns.

Nominations are expected to be opened in the fall for STaR Awards to be presented at the 2016 National Planning Conference in Arizona.

Previous Awards Recipients

Previous award recipients