Planning for Resilience in Community Development
National Community Planning Month is upon us, and the diverse team of engineering and planning experts at Snyder & Associates are reflecting on the significant impacts planning has on the world around us.
“Planning plays a crucial role in how we experience and interact with the world around us,” shares Mindy Moore, AICP, Planner for Snyder & Associates. “It has the ability to foster growth and resilience that’s essential to vibrant, livable communities.”
By providing an avenue to educate the public on the value of community planning and honoring its achievements, National Community Planning Month advocates for the profession and encourages us to actively participate in shaping the places we live, work, and play.
So what drives our talented planning team? From what they enjoy to the challenges they face, the answers might surprise you. Here’s what they have to say:
What do you think is unique, overlooked, or interesting about planning that people outside of the profession may not realize?
Planning brings all other professions together. We think about everything from how garbage is collected to how to deter crime with site design, how to infiltrate stormwater, and provide access to public transit. A community is made of multiple elements and each one comes together under the planning umbrella. — Mindy Moore, AICP, Planner
It’s not really something about planning that is unique; it’s that planning, in general, is unique. Every community has different characteristics and visions. Therefore, we can use some of the same techniques and concepts when planning, but ultimately, our goal is to create a plan that serves public interests and meets the need of its residents, making all plans unique to each community in their own way. — Jared Foss, AICP, Planner
We can get caught up trying to fix a problem before we actually know what it is. For example, if job centers are closing in a region, we may focus on the symptoms of why they’re closing and why people are moving away. Labor force skill sets and depth dictates how local economies thrive. But jobs are only one variable of community success. Housing and retail variety, coupled with recreational opportunities, must also be addressed to overcome economic challenges. Solving one variable doesn’t solve all problems. Balance is essential. — Wade Greiman, PE, Transportation Business Unit Leader
Planners have a unique way of connecting services, programs, and improvements into a coordinated system that provides people with choices. This allows individuals the ability to tailor how they experience their community and gain the support needed to lead a fulfilling, active lifestyle. — Tim West, PLA, Leed, AP, Landscape Architect
There’s a significant amount of training and experience that goes into becoming a thoughtful, professional planner, and we are ethically bound to provide our clients with a high standard of care. —Lauren Dietz, Planner
Why is innovative planning important?
An innovative planning approach is important to engage representation from all groups within a community and to develop a plan that addresses their needs. — Mindy Moore, AICP, Planner
Smart planning builds the case for action to achieve specific goals. While it may be comfortable to work with people you know and can anticipate, it can stifle innovation and hinder progress. Utilizing an innovative approach at every step of the planning process creates opportunities for differing opinions to work collectively toward a common goal. When diverse views or interests collaborate to achieve a productive outcome that aligns with the goal of a plan, it can foster solutions that support community resilience for decades. — Wade Greiman, PE, Transportation Business Unit Leader
To keep up with societal changes, you must adapt your approach to be as effective as possible. Solving new problems with an old way of thinking can prevent a community from moving forward. — Lauren Dietz, Planner
What’s exciting about the future of planning and innovation?
When I think about the future of transportation, I’m excited about innovations that will improve safety, foster equitable mobility, and help protect the natural environment. For example, I expect that car sharing systems will expand in availability and popularity, that autonomous vehicles will one day be the norm, and that unmanned drones will deliver our packages. These innovations will reduce traffic congestion and crashes while expanding mobility options for everyone. — Mindy Moore, AICP, Planner
The increase in how technology is used for mapping and wayfinding. Using technology to inform users about the history of an area, along with what services are available and where, will be an important part of community planning as time goes on. In addition, there’s a large movement towards more active lifestyles, which promotes improved connectivity through multi-use trails. A greater focus on healthy lifestyles requires more park, trail, and athletic facility designs, which we enjoy and our firm is good at. — Tim West, PLA, Leed, AP, Landscape Architect
You never really know what kind of stroke of luck or technological advance might revolutionize the way we work—that’s what makes this job fun. —Lauren Dietz, Planner
What do you personally enjoy about planning?
My favorite thing about planning is seeing the goals outlined during the planning process come to fruition. Helping our clients identify strategies and policies to achieve those goals is very rewarding. — Jared Foss, AICP, Planner
Most of my work is centers around a specific park project or commercial site development project. I like stepping back and looking at the bigger picture in order to find connections between a project and other complementary services or recreational opportunities. The ability to create connections through planning can lead project design in different directions and foster innovative solutions to expand the use of the project area, neighborhood, and community. — Tim West, PLA, Leed, AP, Landscape Architect
I enjoy learning about the challenges facing our client communities and designing an approach that empowers stakeholders to tackle those challenges through unique communication strategies. With each project, we understand more about the communities we serve and gather a greater appreciation for what’s holding them back and what’s contributed to their success. Focusing on the positives has provided the best results, but addressing restraints head-on can set a community apart from the rest. — Wade Greiman, PE, Transportation Business Unit Leader
What aspects of planning do you find challenging?
It can be challenging to implement a new idea within a community, particularly with infrastructure. It’s human nature to be resistant to change, so something like a new roundabout, protected bike lane, or back-in angle parking in a community that’s never had one before, can be met with resistance simply because it’s new. — Mindy Moore, AICP, Planner
During the public input process, you can receive some pretty wild responses on future development. Finding ways to address those concerns to make them consistent with the rest of the plan and direction the community ultimately wants to go can be a challenge. — Jared Foss, AICP, Planner
Local knowledge leads to preconceived perceptions, which can hold a community back. Coming into a community and attempting to convey what’s evident without being perceived as judgmental, is difficult at times. Especially if the message has a negative tone. In many cases, I need to slow down and take-in more feedback to develop better plans, dispel negative beliefs, and garner community support for projects. — Wade Greiman, PE, Transportation Business Unit Leader
How can community members become more involved in shaping the world around them?
I think the best thing people can do to get involved is to pay attention to what’s going on around their community. To do this, residents can attend meetings and open houses, volunteer, and talk to their neighbors and council members. — Jared Foss, AICP, Planner
Believe you can make a difference, even if you’re on your own. It takes all types of people to create a community. If you’re willing to give your time and talent to your community in a positive manner, those talents can be coupled with a complementary talent to achieve positive outcomes. The more diverse that a group of people working together for the greater good is, the more likely their community is of being resilient to change and challenge. — Wade Greiman, PE, Transportation Business Unit Leader
Get involved—not just on a project you’re passionate about, but with the governing structures and community-based organizations where you live. The best way to shape a process is to be a part of it on a regular basis. — Lauren Dietz, Planner