The City of Palm Bay recognizes the importance of strategically managing growth so as to maintain its small-town character while still encouraging dynamic business opportunities, providing appropriate mixed use and affordable developments, developing feasible transportation plans, and preserving the beauty and integrity of critical environmental areas. Fundamentally, the community believes that growth and development do not have to conflict with the open spaces, parks and natural areas which make Palm Bay, in so many ways, a perfect place to grow.
In an effort to build a framework that would guide future planning processes, the City Council created a 15-member Community Visioning Steering Committee whose members represented the development community, business leaders, educators, the medical industry, industrial leaders, religious organizations, and homeowner associations. They identified some of the primary concerns for the future growth of the City including: balancing resources, amount of annexation, demographic changes, and evolution of the “Old Palm Bay” to the “New Palm Bay.”
The City engaged the services of a consultant to hold a planning workshop for the City Staff and Steering Committee, and to facilitate five topic-specific public workshops.
In an extraordinary outreach program that demonstrated a strong public-private partnership, the City held a series of five public workshops. These workshops, which were widely publicized, were held every other Saturday from January to March, 2007.An average of 70 participants attended each workshop and several participants attended more than one workshop. Participants included Palm Bay residents, business owners, civic leaders and neighboring residents.
The workshops addressed specific topics of concern to the residents:
- Economic Development
- Land Use
- Open Space/Recreation.
Each five-hour meeting began with staff presentations on current planning developments within the city as well as general planning concepts in an effort to orient the audience. Participants were then led through planning activities specific to the topic and engaged in brainstorming sessions to identify the critical elements needed in the City’s future.
Geographic Information System (GIS) maps were incorporated into the workshops, enabling participants to visually mark locations on the maps and thereby indicate their preference for specific types of future developments. By providing a view of the City “at 30,000 feet,” the GIS maps allowed committee members and audience participants to play a greater role in community planning than traditional top-down, planner-dominated processes typically allow. Further, it created a unique setting in which developers, who increasingly affect the way developments occur, could work collaboratively alongside residents to visually create a desirable community for all.
Scenario Planning - The information gathered from the five workshops was compiled and presented to the committee in a separate Scenario Planning Workshop aimed at developing several alternative scenarios for the future. The committee members worked through an eight-step scenario planning process that included the selection of a vision statement, identification of driving forces, ranking of those forces, identification of the two most important uncertainties (the economy and public support), creation of a scenario matrix, and the description of each scenario. The result was the creation of a preferred future scenario and the identification of the common elements needed to guide future decision making under any possible future that may occur.
The final product of this approach, which is unusual for public planning efforts, was a vision plan with corresponding GIS maps that visually represent the future along with a preferred scenario for accomplishing the goal. The vision plan was approved by the Planning and Zoning Board on June 6, 2007 and by the City Council on July 19, 2007. The common themes derived from the vision plan will be incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan during the amendment process.
For further information, contact David Watkins at (321) 733-3042 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.