Trip 2 recap

Consultants from Verdunity joined City of Liberty Hill staff members for a series of meetings and activities over three days to discuss topics ranging from future land use in the city to infrastructure investment and capacity.

Verdunity CEO Kevin Shepherd led a community conversation on the evening of Tuesday, April 18th exploring how decisions at the local level affect the fiscal health of the entire community and answered questions from the audience. A joint worksession with the City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission was facilitated by Verdunity team members after the community conversation. Using interactive polling tools, the members of both groups provided direction for appropriate levels of development intensity, how much focus should be placed on creating housing that suits all income levels in Kyle, and where revenue should be coming from to fund city services.

A set of public engagement sessions were held on Monday, April 17th, to solicit feedback from residents on the types of development they are interested in seeing and where that development is most appropriate. Meetings were held at two locations; one midday at the Liberty Hill Public Library, and one in the evening at Willy’s Backyard to provide residents with different schedules an opportunity to provide feedback.

In this video we take a look at the fiscal impacts of  land use.

The results are in! See the results of the second community survey.

Ideally, implementation of the Comprehensive Plan is a community-wide effort. Cities never have enough in the way of resources – there is always a shortage of staff, time, budgets, supplies, and more. The clearest path to success in implementation includes welcoming of locals – groups, organizations, volunteers, officials, and community partners – to join forces with city government. There is truth to the statement that “together we accomplish more”.

For example, every community has small improvements in neighborhoods that can be made. These small improvements tend to be overlooked by city officials, but locals understand these small improvements can yield big results. Local service organizations, youth organizations, and city governments can collaborate to accomplish these small improvements with modest funding and sweat equity. Likewise, local partners can join forces to leverage and maximize grant funding for the community, volunteer effort can help fill the staffing gap when it comes to event planning, or small coalitions can provide the type of non-monetary economic development – think services for startups – that truly helps support a climate of entrepreneurship.

Implementation discussions work best when they are conducted in a highly-visible setting where residents can see their local leadership making progress on plan execution. Some of the more frequent criticisms from residents often include not knowing why decisions are being made, and not being able to see progress firsthand. Having quarterly or biannual conversations that celebrate and openly share progress while welcoming interested parties into the dialogue helps address these criticisms. When there are delays, sharing those challenges also helps better educate locals about the impediments their leaders often face.

For a comprehensive plan to truly guide a city into the future, it must be consulted frequently and be present in proceedings where decisions are made. By checking off actions and strategies as they are finished, updating those on which progress has been charted, and identifying new steps for action in each subsequent period, the plan continues to act as a tool for motivation and organization.

In this video we cover how different Development Patterns impact fiscal sustainability.

The Comprehensive Plan plays a critical role in decisions made for all communities. It is important that, as citizens are asked to participate in the process, they are given information about the way the tool they are asked to provide input on will be utilized. Below is a brief explanation of the various ways that will happen.

  • First, the future land use map component is a graphical depiction that provides direction about the type and location of future development. By having a unified and organized approach, a community can continue a consistent path forward despite changes that may occur over time in staffing and leadership, ensuring the desires of the community are maintained. That said, amendments to the future land use map can be considered and adopted over time to meet the needs of a changing community.
  • Second, the values, principles, and vision summarized in the Comprehensive Plan are intended to inform all decisions made by the community – budget, policy, regulations, priorities, and programs. The Plan should be at the center of every discussion to provide context and guidance. Citizens and leaders alike work best when they work collaboratively to ask the important questions, such as: does this decision we are considering align with the adopted values, principles, and vision? Is there another approach that is more in keeping with what the plan we’ve adopted?
  • Third, the implementation component of the Comprehensive Plan – that is, the component that outlines the actions that are necessary to execute and achieve the identified goals – is designed to form the tasks and responsibilities that the City staff, the community as a whole, and subgroups of the community are charged with carrying out. The implementation component is an accountability document that clearly states what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it needs to be accomplished. This is, in short, the work plan for the next ten years. However, a plan shouldn’t be adopted and untouched for ten years. It should be updated annually and progress reported to the community and its decision-makers on a regular basis.

After an understanding of how critical the Comprehensive Plan is and should be used is established, it should be clear why community input is so important. That input can be provided in a number of ways as outlined on the project website. We challenge you to spread the word to your friends, neighbors, colleagues and family so the input is as complete as possible. Change and improvement cannot happen without engagement.

The results are in! See below for a summary of the results to the first survey.

The Vibrant Community Assessment is an assessment for respondents that asks them to give specific rankings of how their community is performing in each of ten categories, each of which is a key indicator of vibrancy. The assessment is a tool that is based upon the book Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change is Reshaping America by Quint Studer.

Participants were able to see the qualities of a community functioning at a 1 (low level of performance) and that of a community functioning at a 10 (high level of performance). For example, on question 1, “How engaged are your community’s citizens?” these descriptions of what a score of 1 might look like and what a score of 10 might look like were provided:

Score of 1: Few people vote. Even fewer attend public meetings. Few attempts are made to promote dialogue between community leaders and citizens. Most letters to the editor and social media posts on local issues have a tone of disillusionment, pessimism, and anger. In the past when people have given their input, they haven’t seen results so they’ve given up trying.

Score of 10: Voter turnout is high. Public meetings and events attract a large and diverse crowd. Civic leaders communicate with citizens often and through various avenues. While not everyone agrees on the issues, there’s plenty of spirited debate. There’s a sense of optimism in the air, volunteerism is high, and neighbors reach out and help neighbors.

After reviewing each question and the examples of high and low performance, survey takers were asked to rank Liberty Hill in those categories. This assessment ran from 9/1/2022 to 10/28/2022, and 252 responses were received.

Cities are living organisms that are always changing and growing in some way. Whether we are talking about physical growth, economic growth, or societal growth, having a plan is critical to guide that growth appropriately. Here are some examples of what we mean:

  • Physical growth – the Comprehensive Plan helps provide a road map for “what goes where” when it comes to transportation, land use, and open space.
  • Economic growth – the Comprehensive Plan aids in setting economic development policies (like incentives or training) and ensures that this type of growth aligns with what the needs of businesses and residents are.
  • Societal growth – the Comprehensive Plan advances societal growth by ensuring that there is a defined role for everyone in the community, giving guidance for decision making, and provides a transparent approach to accountability.

Over time, members of the city staff, elected officials, and the citizen group itself changes. A comprehensive plan provides continuity across all of those changes. It also creates a way for cities to be much more proactive.

Resources are also best utilized when a plan is in place. One of the most frequent issues in communities of all sizes is a lack of alignment between all of the different groups and organizations working to better that community. We have all heard the phrase, “doing more with less.” We have all been in the position of trying to do more with less. In order to truly do more, this alignment is necessary. A comprehensive plan provides that alignment at a community-wide level and can leverage existing resources to accomplish much more. A positive side effect is that it often helps to improve communication and support.

Transparency and accountability are often two areas in which citizens tend to express a need for improvement within any city. A comprehensive plan is an important tool in accomplishing a higher level of transparency, by clearly stating and making available to the public the goals and the strategies that will be enacted to reach those goals. Furthermore, it is an accountability document intended to provide a way for the administration to measure their levels of effectiveness and to make the organization accountable to meeting community needs.

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

A community comprehensive plan is a foundational document. Think of it in terms of these three main tasks:

  1. It provides a rationale for decision-making.
  2. It provides recommendations for policy and budgeting.
  3. It provides an examination of the overall picture of a city – a snapshot in time today and a glimpse at the future the community wishes to achieve.

While ordinances and regulations are the tools, the plan is the vision. It expresses the goals and direction a community desires to pursue, and provides the game plan for how to get there. By planning ahead, there are clear expectations and responsibilities outlined. This gives the best opportunity for success in execution. Imagine trying to perform your job without knowing the goals of your employer, what resources and tools are available to you, or what you are responsible for. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to make meaningful progress.

Comprehensive plans have two components: the visual component and the text component. The visual component revolves around a series of maps. In this plan, the primary maps will be a series analyzing the fiscal sustainability of Liberty Hill, and the proposed arrangement of future land uses within it. This plan uses visual elements to show what different types of land uses should look like. These pieces outline the “what”. The text component sets the scene by outlining the existing conditions and builds from there to include a number of subjects related to the future of the city. This includes analysis and results in an implementation strategy of actions for the city to begin working on once the plan has been adopted. These pieces outline the “how”.

The engagement process is a critical piece that must involve the public in order to build consensus, learn about the resources available in the community, and understand the needs and desires of the public. The feedback from residents, businesses, groups, and the city organization also aids in the prioritization of goals and steps for implementation.

You may be thinking to yourself, “wait a minute – our community is always evolving; how can we create a plan, knowing this?”. It’s a great question. Fortunately, while the Comprehensive Plan is ultimately approved and adopted by the governing body for the city, it can always be amended and updated to reflect those changing conditions. In fact, it is recommended that a city looks at its plan on an annual basis to adjust as needed. What is important is that additions and modifications stay true to the adopted vision and values the city has established.

A comprehensive plan should not be a document that is rarely used or consulted. The objective is to help communities create a document that is the center of their decision-making and their culture. Ordinances, budgeting, decision-making, and organizational management should all be in alignment with this plan. This not only creates consistency and continuity over time, but it also enhances and deepens the identity of the city.

In this video we discuss how the rate and pattern of development impact affordability and the overall fiscal health of a city.

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