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Spartanburg Comprehensive Plan


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I was scrolling through Facebook this evening and I happened to see my old urban planning professor at Clemson speaking to City Council. Apparently the City has issued an RFP for consultants who can run a comprehensive plan process. Since Spartanburg only has 2 planners, they will supply the staff for this process as well. Spartanburg hasn't done a true comprehensive plan in 15+ years - the Downtown and Northside plans are more focused on specific areas of the city. I'm excited for this process, so I'm starting this thread to document and discuss the journey. 

I heard Natalia (one of the planners on staff) say that they should have more information for council at the next meeting in a couple of weeks.

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I'm very excited that we're getting the process underway.  It's way overdue, and I think the staff is serious about having a plan that is useful and doesn't just comply with the legal requirement that we have a plan, but that actually guides the work of the city staff for the next 10 years.  The city manager briefed Council and the Planning Commission earlier in the year about the process.  Glad this thread is active now, and I'll share what I learn as we get going.  

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  • 5 months later...

City Council has chosen Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative to lead the Comprehensive Plan process.

From their website, it appears they have only been involved in plans for cities smaller than Spartanburg, which concerns me a bit.  Stantec was another candidate, and they have a much larger and more diverse portfolio.  From the outside, I would have preferred a firm like Stantec with more "big time" experience.  I hope we're not limiting ourselves with this selection...

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15 hours ago, westsider28 said:

City Council has chosen Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative to lead the Comprehensive Plan process.

From their website, it appears they have only been involved in plans for cities smaller than Spartanburg, which concerns me a bit.  Stantec was another candidate, and they have a much larger and more diverse portfolio.  From the outside, I would have preferred a firm like Stantec with more "big time" experience.  I hope we're not limiting ourselves with this selection...

Manchester, New Hampshire is a fairly large city but, overall, their portfolio is mostly smaller cities.  

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Well, there was a selection committee, composed of city staff and citizen (neighborhood leader) representatives (but nobody from any of the planning, DRB, BZA, or HARB bodies) that rated these three finalists.  They had a really good presentation at Council, I thought.  I think a lot of this is a matter of comfort with style, methods, and how they proposed to do engagement.  They aren't coming in to tell us what we should be, they're coming in to facilitate us deciding what we ought to be.  

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I'm not familiar with TPUDC, but I like what I see. They are an urban design firm, which is hopefully indicative of the approach Council wants to take - i.e: expanding the form-based code approach to planning that has been used downtown over the past decade. This group will do most of the work since Spartanburg only has two planners on staff, so I think experience with small towns and small town politics is a benefit. 

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  • 6 months later...

  • 2 weeks later...

Did anyone else attend the online meeting this week?  One of the good things about this pandemic forcing everything online is that I can participate from out of town. I thought that the consultant and city team did a great job. It sounds like they are working to implement some state-of-the-practice concepts into the plan, and create a plan that is actually useful (if you've ever looked at the current master plan (fromthe 1990s) it's just terrible. It's going to be fun to watch this process evolve and participate when I can.

 

https://www.goupstate.com/story/news/local/2020/09/11/city-leaders-impressed-turnout-first-long-term-planning-meeting-sc/3458748001/

 

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3 hours ago, Spartan said:

Did anyone else attend the online meeting this week?  One of the good things about this pandemic forcing everything online is that I can participate from out of town. I thought that the consultant and city team did a great job. It sounds like they are working to implement some state-of-the-practice concepts into the plan, and create a plan that is actually useful (if you've ever looked at the current master plan (fromthe 1990s) it's just terrible. It's going to be fun to watch this process evolve and participate when I can.

I attended.  It was a good intro, and the team seems to be well-equipped to guide the process effectively.  As always, I'm a bit concerned about NIMBY-ism from the general public, so I hope they can try to steer the process toward smart urban planning concepts.  You can already add your comments and ideas at the website: https://www.planspartanburg.com/tell-us-what-you-think

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just finished up a meeting talking about a key section of Plan Spartanburg input that's happening right now called the Virtual Visioning Workshop.  It's a multi-part exercise with many areas of input: Spartanburg Today & Tomorrow, Connections, What's Missing?, Someone Else's Shoes (I really like this one, since these inputs tend to trend toward ideas and opinions that are in people's own self-interest), Equity, and Big Ideas.  There's even an art contest for the kids (or anyone really).  Definitely go there and contribute your ideas!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Planapalooza is happening Friday and Saturday, with focus meetings (via Zoom) throughout both days on topics like Transportation, Growth, Economics/Business, Parks, Housing, Culture, etc.  Be sure to sign up for the meetings and participate at https://www.planspartanburg.com/planapalooza

Another resource that I'm really excited about is an interactive mapping tool (https://www.planspartanburg.com/planapalooza/maps/mapping-workshop) on the Plan Spartanburg website.  There you can add places you like, places that need work, opportunities, etc.  Definitely check that out and contribute.  That's probably where I'll be spending a TON of time.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 4 months later...

The Draft Plan will be revealed on Tuesday, September 14 at 6:00 pm via a Zoom "open house" meeting (sign up at https://www.planspartanburg.com/).  It will then be available for public review and comment.

Also somewhat related, OneSpartanburg is creating their Vision Plan 2.0 and have a public survey available to see what public priorities are.  I encourage you to complete it (10-20 min).

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/9/2021 at 12:06 PM, westsider28 said:

The Draft Plan will be revealed on Tuesday, September 14 at 6:00 pm via a Zoom "open house" meeting (sign up at https://www.planspartanburg.com/).  It will then be available for public review and comment.

After the original attempt at a meeting was hacked/zoom-bombed by some disgusting individuals, the virtual open house has been rescheduled for Tuesday, September 28 at 6:00 pm (with increased security).  There will then be a series of in-person meetings Oct. 7-9 to get feedback on specific aspects of the draft plan.

879994510_SCPPlanapalooza.thumb.jpg.f22336240fc683273658822651dccf4e.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's a link to the Draft Plan webpage, and here's a direct link to the PDF (55 MB, 298 pages).

I skimmed through the plan, and it seems solid and safe.  Contains most of the contemporary urban planning tenants, but nothing too groundbreaking.  You can find the recommendations for each topic in the yellow boxes at the end of each section.  Several sections referenced the transit section, but then I found that one to be relatively underwhelming.  The most important section seems like the Land Use and Community Character (starting pg 255).  That contains something pretty close to zoning classifications (see map below).  I think the corridors (particularly Pine-Union) could be the most exciting element.  Lots of potential there.  Gentle density like ADUs was mentioned for neighborhoods, but I would've like to have seen duplexes allowed city-wide by-right.

I encourage you to read through, send your feedback, and attend one or more of the meetings the next 2 days.  This is very important!

582056056_SCPG-Cmap2.thumb.JPG.b2a869cc81dccebf03375112e9b49e62.JPG

An interesting stat included on pg. 34: city population is projected to go over 40k by 2025 and surpass the historic high (from 1970) of 44.5k by 2035.  That's exciting, and I personally think we could potentially beat the 1970 high even sooner.

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  • 5 months later...

According to February's Planning Commission meeting, an updated Comprehensive Plan will be presented to the public on March 29, with several community meetings to follow.  Then the Comprehensive Plan should come before the Planning Commission for approval on April 21.  Assuming they recommend approval, it would then go before City Council, with adoption likely by May/June.  Then the hard part would start: rewriting the citywide zoning ordinance to reflect the priorities in the Comp Plan.  Lots of important decisions to be made this year.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here is a direct link to the Final Comprehensive Plan (large PDF file).  This is from a City Facebook post.  I don't see it linked on the PlanSpartanburg website yet.  I haven't looked over it yet, so I don't know if there are any changes from the draft.  Have a look yourself when you have time.  Again, Planning Commission is set to approve it at their April 21 meeting, then (assuming PC approval) City Council will have first reading at their May 9 meeting.

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  • 2 months later...

So, the Comprehensive Plan was supposed to be approved in May, but staff noticed 2 elements required by state law (out of 10 total) were missing.  They are "priority investment area" and a "resiliency element".  Priority investment area gets into funding sources for public facilities, primarily, and public infrastructure (I saw mention of using the new City Hall for this item).  Not sure what "resiliency element" is.  Perhaps a response strategy to a disaster or pandemic?

The resiliency element was only added to state law in 2020, so that's somewhat understandable, but the other seems to just be an oversight.  Maybe because the consulting firm is from Tennessee?  Anyway, I believe adding these elements may involve some additional public input, so approval of the plan has been delayed.  I don't know when an adoption vote is now planned.

(Aside: apparently, they could've approved the existing plan and added these elements later, but it's probably best to do it all together.)

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The Urban League of the Upstate insisted strongly at the meeting where the final draft of the plan was presented to Council that they take their time and do it "right," meaning, including these elements. I was present at the last public showing of the draft (before that one), and asked how the different projects would be funded, as that was a point of interest of some who follow me on Social Media. The Urban League was at that meeting also.  I think it was a previous concern of them though before I brought it up.

I wish I could remember what the resiliency element was about. Got nothing for you there!

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  • 1 month later...

I'm actually surprised resiliency is a required element of a comp plan in SC as its a fairly new and progressive concept in planning. In the context of a comp plan, it's generally about economic, environmental, and social resiliency in response to hard times/stresses/shocks to the status quo. So, not a detailed emergency plan, but an analysis of how the various elements concepts in the plan work together to support these things. It's admittedly vague planning jargon - even to planners sometimes. Here is a primer on resiliency from the American Planning Association:

https://www.planning.org/blog/blogpost/9124762/

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  • 1 month later...

What has happened to this plan?  There has been no mention of it for months.  Nothing on the CC or PC agendas.  We cannot let this fall through the cracks!  This is a hugely important document to the future of the City.  It must be passed ASAP, so we can move on to the important task of rewriting the zoning code, before we get a rush of poorly-designed development.  It is so important to creating the safe, walkable, and green (climate-wise and tree-wise) City that we need moving forward!

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