Envision Athens Awarded For Outstanding Planning Process

By September 20, 2018News

Georgia Planning Association Awards Envision Athens for Outstanding Planning Process

ATHENS, Ga.—September 20, 2018—Envision Athens is mobilizing both private and public sectors to execute a 20-year Action Agenda that aims to better the community for all Athenians. This movement was initiated by a diverse cross section of the community as a roadmap to shape the future for Athens-Clarke County.

More than 1,600 members of the Athens community collaborated to develop the Action Agenda that covers 14 topic areas. The agenda includes short, intermediate and long-term goals that address Place (neighborhoods, environment and housing), Prosperity (economics and education) and People (health, safety and social services).

The 18-month process of engagement and data review completed in 2016-17 with the assistance of consultants at Planning NEXT is now being awarded by the Georgia chapter of the American Planning Association. At their annual conference dinner, held on September 6th in Jekyll Island, Envision Athens received an award for “Outstanding Planning Process.” Envision Athens joins previous award winners in this category for their success in utilizing many and diverse tools to gauge public input from citizens and stakeholders across the community.

This award was made possible and is a reflection of the unprecedented collaborative efforts between a host of local agencies and citizens, including the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County’s (ACCGOV) Planning Department, more than 150 community stakeholders, 1,600+ citizens, and 11 dedicated institutional partners – all of whom provided input and feedback on a wide range and variety of important community topics, reviewed economic data and community conditions, and worked together on the development of a community-wide Action Agenda.

The opportunity for this community-wide, public/private effort came about as a result of the state-required update to the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County’s Comprehensive Plan, funding approval from the Mayor and my fellow Commissioners, and a decision by 10 local, institutional partners to dedicate additional financial resources to this effort. These institutional partners included the Clarke County School District, the Athens Housing Authority, the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, the University of Georgia, the United Way of Northeast Georgia, the City of Winterville, Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital, Georgia Power, and Athens Technical College.

With the assistance of the consulting firm planning NEXT, by strategically aligning the Comprehensive Plan with the Envision Athens effort the community was able to establish a much broader and more inclusive approach to obtaining the necessary public input on local community and economic development concerns than if these efforts had been completed independent of one another.

Ultimately, the outcomes achieved would not have been possible without the efforts of both the ACCGOV Planning Department staff and the 38-member Envision Athens Steering Committee guiding the process.

Envision Athens would also like to personally recognize ACC Planner, Gavin Hassemer, who played an integral role in the planning process and who without, this award would not be possible. Under the astute guidance and leadership of ACC Planning Director, Brad Griffin, Gavin headed up the development of the Comprehensive Plan and worked side-by-side with planning NEXT and the 38-member Envision Athens Steering Committee to manage the public input process. As a result of Gavin’s leadership, the Athens-Clarke County community has both a Comprehensive Plan and an Action Agenda. These living, breathing documents establish our community’s common vision and identify strategic actions that will guide our community forward together.

Said Erin Barger, current Project Manager for Envision Athens and Steering Committee member during the planning phase:

“As a Steering Committee member with Envision Athens, it was critical to our group that the process for gathering input and forming action strategy was one that made room for everyone at the table. This open invitation and deep analysis of our community created a strategy and a movement that our entire community can get behind. As we move fully into implementation, this is a perfect time to experience, as the Project Manager, such affirmation that the process that brought us here was exemplary.”

Michele Pearson served on the Steering Committee for Envision Athens during the planning phase as a representative of the Athens Housing Authority Board of Directors. She now serves as the Vice-Chair for the ongoing Implementation and Oversight Committee of Envision Athens.

“The planning process for Envision Athens was the start of a great community, government and private planning effort for Athens. Now, the hard work begins as we move forward. We need all community members more than ever to continue ENVISIONing the future of Athens.”

Envision Athens continues to work throughout the community to address priority actions across Place, Prosperity, and People. Members of the Athens community can get engaged by sharing with others about Envision Athens, attending Envision Athens community events, and/or following the Action Agenda progress at www.envisionathens.com or on their Facebook page.

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