Making a decision to change the way an entire city conducts its legally mandated planning is not something that anyone does quickly or without thorough consideration. Never imagine that just because it is a good idea, all the political and financial processes of city government will fall in line. Cities are large ships, and turning them, even a few degrees, takes careful planning and forethought. It also takes time – making a change from a traditional master plan to a sustainable master plan that follows the principles and ethics of the Earth Charter will typically take between 18 months and three years, depending on the city, its leadership, and how many different aspects of city policy need to change.
Montpelier has just completed this long process with the City Council’s adoption of the new Master Plan on September 8, 2010. There have been several critical activities that helped with a successful outcome, they are:
- An extensive public outreach and participation campaign designed to involve a broad cross-section of the city and its stakeholders in the planning process;
- A grant program that allowed projects consistent with the planning process to move forward even before it was completed;
- The adoption of the Vision and Goals of the plan by the City Council as an intermediate stage in the project;
- And a citywide prioritization exercise that allowed citizens to have a voice in what the top priority strategies would be.
A few facets of the project that were particularly helpful in moving the paradigm shift forward included 1) framing the project as a learning exercise, rather than depending on experts; 2) focusing on the assets of the community as a starting point, rather than the problems; and 3) taking a long-term view – asking the community to imagine the city 100 years from now. The EarthCAT workbook provides instructions on many of these activities.
- Spring 2007: Planning Commission recommends the enVision process to City Council. City Council agrees to engage in creating a sustainable Master Plan.
- Summer 2007: City obtains Mazer Foundation grant to fund implementation projects.
- Fall, 2007: Stakeholder group and committees formed, begin monthly meetings.
- Summer, 2008: City Council adopts Vision and Goals
- Fall, 2009: Committees develop Targets and Strategies to achieve goals.
- Spring, 2010: Stakeholder and public prioritization of targets and strategies.
- September, 2010: City Council Adoption of Master Plan