City Council Joint Work Session

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Meeting Date: 03/06/2023  
From: Sara Dechter, AICP, Comprehensive Planning Manager
Department: Community Development  
Co-Submitter: Melissa Shaw, AICP Coconino County Long Range Planner

Regional Plan Update and Direction on Plan Creation and Adoption
Staff will provide an update on the project status and review the public participation and scenario planning process that are underway and continuing through the calendar.  The Board and Council may provide feedback. 

Staff is seeking direction on two major points:
  1. How would the Board of Supervisors and City Council like to form a committee to oversee the selection of a scenario, creation of a Future Growth Illustration, and plan translation to goals and policies?
  2. In what order would the Board and Council like to carry out the joint review and adoption of the Flagstaff Regional Plan 2045?
The Flagstaff Regional Plan is the General Plan for the City and a comprehensive plan amendment for Coconino County.  The planning area encompasses the City of Flagstaff and unincorporated areas within the Metroplan boundary for Greater Flagstaff jurisdiction.  This intergovernmental approach creates a stronger foundation for land, transportation, water, and natural resources management and planning.  As a shared policy guide for the region, it influences future land use, infrastructure, and social and economic conditions for generations.  It is therefore critical that the process for creating and adopting the plan is inclusive and endorsed by the elected officials.  

Staff provides regular updates and check in on the Regional Plan process with the City Council, Board of supervisors and the Planning and Zoning commissions. For new City Council members, we recommend reviewing the Regional Plan 101 video for background information on the plan’s requirements.

In March 2021, City Council and the Board of Supervisors separately reviewed and provided feedback on the Public Participation Outline for the update process, and since then, have had regular updates jointly and separately with opportunities to review and provide feedback on the efforts planned and underway.  In October 2022, City Council approved a contract with Cascadia Partners to assist with the Phase 2 Scenario Planning and Collaborative Process. 

Phase 2 Public Participation Update

Phase 2 is the exploratory phase of the Regional Plan process. Throughout Phase 2, there are multiple public engagement opportunities that will culminate in the choosing of a future scenario that will be the basis for the creation of the Future Growth Illustration and related goals and policies. There are three tracts of engagement to ensure a diverse and inclusive process using the project’s guiding principles. Some engagement activities are tailored to one tract and others engage more than one simultaneously. The three tracts are: 

  • General public engagement, which includes traditional workshops, webinars and meetings advertised using notices in the paper, social media, radio, flyers, and other methods. 

  • Technical reviews, which include government and invited experts reviewing material that ends up being an element of the modeling or of public workshops. 

  • Targeted population outreach, which includes bringing the Regional Plan outreach to populations that are heavily impacted by community decisions but have limited resources or history of engagement with community planning and development.  

Visioning workshops

To start the visioning process, between April and November 2022, the project team published a visioning survey on the Flagstaff Community Forum. From August to November, the Regional Plan team held 11 visioning workshops across the regional planning area. At each workshop, a member of the update team gave a brief presentation about the Regional Plan, after which attendees were invited to participate in breakout activities where community members could talk, listen, share, and think about the future of our community. Staff compiled and summarized the feedback received in the attached report. 

Scenario Planning 

Scenario Planning was a successful component of the last Regional Plan update that we are replicating and better integrating into the process for the 2045 update. Scenario planning is an approach to long range planning for cities and regions that enables communities to create and analyze multiple plausible versions of the future. It is increasingly being used in urban planning projects because of its usefulness in times of uncertainty and complexity. Scenario planning encourages strategic thinking around how and why places change, and allows us to imagine multiple futures to meet some of the most pressing challenges of our time related to climate change, transportation, infrastructure, technology, economic development, and housing. It is also a unique opportunity for community stakeholders to help shape the future through collaboration and consensus building around planning.

For Flagstaff's Regional Plan Update, a consultant team led by Cascadia Partners and made up of land use planners, data analysts, and engagement specialists, will use scenarios as a technique to help City and County staff and the Flagstaff community envision a more sustainable and equitable future for the region. Scenarios will use both community feedback and data modeling to help us understand the potential challenges the region might face in the future, and how we can shape policy that is resilient no matter what the future might hold. Based on feedback from staff, technical experts, and stakeholders, a set of alternative land use scenarios will be developed by the consultants and these scenarios will be presented to the public with an evaluation "report card" for each scenario detailing their unique benefits and tradeoffs. Through this process, a preferred scenario will be chosen with input from the Flagstaff community. The preferred scenario will help shape the region's future land use map and will help inform policy recommendations in the Regional Plan Update. 

The Technical Advisory Group 

Starting in February 2023, Cascadia Partners and the Regional Plan Update team engaged a group of 18 subject matter experts in the exploratory scenario planning process. The group's expertise ranges from natural resources and housing to economics and development.  The group was selected based on stakeholder outreach to identify the people in the community with the most depth in particular types of knowledge.  They were invited to advise staff and Cascadia partners on various assumptions and points of uncertainty that are inherent in planning for long range futures. It is important to note that the TAG is not advising on policy or making recommendations beyond how to incorporate feedback and new information into the scenario planning process and modeling efforts.

The first two TAG meetings occurred on Monday, February 6, and Monday, February 27 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. The meetings were recorded and posted to the Regional Plan website under the Scenario Planning tab with the opportunity for the public to watch and provide feedback to the project team and TAG members. At the first two meetings, the TAG is tasked with identifying and evaluating drivers of change in the Flagstaff Region and reviewing work that will end up informing broader public participation opportunities. This group will meet throughout 2023 to think through different facets of future scenarios and strategies for achieving a future vision of the Flagstaff region. 

Public workshops 

Starting in March 2023, Cascadia Partners and the Regional Plan team will begin hosting a series of public workshops to disseminate and discuss items coming out of the TAG meetings. These workshops will be one of the first opportunities for the public to think strategically through uncertainties, trade-offs, and external factors, and how different ways of growing affect community goals. The workshops will explore different ways of planning for future uncertainties through policy choices - exploring the tradeoffs that might come with these choices.  All will be held at the Flagstaff Aquaplex and childcare will be made available.  The schedule of meetings allows for a variety of times to attend: 

  • Tuesday, March 28, 8:00am to 9:30am 

  • Tuesday, March 28, 10:30am to 12:00pm 

  • Thursday, March 30, 6:00pm to 7:30pm 

  • Saturday, April 1, 10:00am to 11:30am 

Collaborative Process with Community Based Organizations 

One of the challenges of a plan covering a large area is that some populations will come and represent their interests readily and with fervor, while others will be faced with more barriers that make them harder to reach and harder to connect with.  To overcome this imbalance in the traditional approach to public participation, the Cascadia Partners team is reaching out to 8-10 Community Based Organizations with established relationships with those who may be most affected by changes in our community’s future and who would not find it easy to attend public workshops and other traditional means of public participation.  This process will include three touchpoints tied to the Scenario Planning Process and will bring new voices to the engagement. The meetings will include 8-10 organization recruited individuals co-led by a facilitator from within their organization. City staff and our consultant will collaborate with these organizations to overcome barriers to participation unique to each of these groups. In addition, staff and the consultant will pull together groups for neighborhood representatives, youth, and elders through existing relationships and services.

Invitations to this process are currently being sent out based on a stakeholder analysis prepared with the Communication and Outreach team that includes staff from planning, communications, and diversity and inclusion roles at the City and County. This brainstorm was vetted by our local subconsultants and via several short stakeholder interviews before organizations were contacted.  The invitations for most groups are still pending. 

Formation of a Regional Plan Committee

In Fall 2023, Phase 3 will begin centered on choosing a preferred scenario, developing a Future Growth Illustration, writing goals and policies, and developing implementation strategies. Advisory committees are a well-established tool for building consensus and ensuring a diverse set of voices are heard in the development of a plan’s goals and policies. Council and the Board of Supervisors has expressed the desire to continue using this technique at the appropriate time in the process.

Based on past feedback from former committee members, staff, members of the public and elected officials, staff recommends that the model used recently in the City of Flagstaff Bond development process for convening a committee to oversee the creation of the plan. To replicate this method, each Council and Board member will provide two nominations to the City and County Manager, who would then meet and review the nominations together.  The managers would then invite 12-15 members to the Committee to advise staff. The benefits of this method are that is it a swifter way to convene the committee and still allows input of all the Board and Council members. It eliminates the step that the City’s formal appointment process uses of making formal applications a requirement and allows nominations to be considered and made in a way that considers the overall diversity of the committee and its representativeness. It also removes the barrier of having an appointment discussed publicly, which may dissuade some people from applying.

While this less formal appointment method does not require Open Meeting Law adherence, staff would still recommend that the meetings be advertised and agendas made public, that the meeting be recorded and made available, and that the public be allowed to address the committee.  This may require that a set of rules of order unique to this group be created.

The more traditional formal appointment method is an option for Council and the Board to consider.  However, staff would recommend a blended approach to address some of the obstacles and issues that arose when this method was used in the last update process. First, rather than having each member select and appoint individuals to the committee, staff would recommend a group of 2 Board members and 2 Council members meet to review all applications together and discuss the diversity and makeup of the group as a whole. They can then create options to present to a Joint Meeting of Council and the Board that they believe will best support the process of building consensus.  Staff would also recommend that the group be limited to no more than 15 members and that the City Council and Board create a joint resolution outlining the committee’s authorities. Establishing the process in this way would mean that over the next 6 months, Council and the Board would need to have 4-6 joint meetings to address this process so that there is a committee in place when the scenario choosing step is brought forward.

A third option would follow the model of the Housing Commission’s working group for the 10-Year Housing Plan. While this process was successful for the City of Flagstaff 10-Year Housing Plan, the complexity of organizing and running an extensive number of working group meetings may be beyond the capacity of current resources for the project. It would also place the burden of recruiting and overseeing the committee on the Planning and Zoning Commissions, which both have vacancies that have been unfilled for some time and have important ongoing development review responsibilities.  

Sequence of Plan Adoption

Phase 4 of the Regional Plan process is plan adoption.  Once the Regional Plan Committee, has reviewed and made recommendations on the content of the Regional Plan, the City and County need a coordinated process that allows both government entities to meet all the legal requirements for adopting a Comprehensive Plan Update (City) and a major Comprehensive Plan Amendment (County). In the 2013-2014 process, the hearings for the plan began at the City and County at the same time with a Public Hearing Draft.  The County adopted this document as written in October 2013, while the City made edits for three months over a series of meetings, finally adopting a slightly different version in January 2014.  Therefore, despite a lengthy shared public engagement process, the County and City adopted similar but not identical plans.

To avoid this same misalignment, the City and County need to set up a clear path with clear shared endorsement and review expectations that meet all the legal requirements for the State, City and County.

First in this section, we will lay out the requirements of each process and then provide staff’s initial recommendation for how to proceed. The intent is to start this conversation and it may be continued to the next joint meeting if needed.

The City process for initiating and adopting a Comprehensive Plan Update (City Code 11-10.20.010): 

  1. At least a 60-day review by required government agencies, utilities, and the general public prior to hearings. 

  1. A Citizen Review Session 

  1. Two public hearings of the Planning and Zoning Commission 

  1. One Public hearing with the City Council and approved by an affirmative vote of at least two-thirds (2/3) of the members of the Council. 

  1. Ratification at the next regularly scheduled municipal election or at a special election scheduled at least one hundred twenty (120) days after the governing body adopted the General Plan 

County process for adopting a Comprehensive Plan Major Amendment (County Zoning Ordinance Section 5.13) 

  1. Major Amendments are heard once per calendar year by the Planning and Zoning Commission at its regular meeting in October of that year. 

  1. At least sixty days prior to the comprehensive plan update notification for Planning and Zoning Commission consideration the draft will be transmitted for review and comment to municipalities within the county, contiguous counties, NACOG, military airport, the attorney general, the Arizona Department of Commerce, Arizona Department of Water Resources, and any person interested in reviewing planning documents. 

  1. At least one public hearing by the Planning and Zoning Commission who will forward its recommendation for a Major or Minor Amendment to the Board of Supervisors. 

  1. The Board of Supervisors will hold at least one public hearing within 90 days after the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing. Minor Amendments are subject to a simple majority vote of the Board of Supervisors. Major Amendments require a four-fifths majority vote of the Board of Supervisors. 

Staff recommends that the combined process focus on reviewing the final draft together and adopting separately, through the following steps: 

  1. 60-day public review 

  1. Incorporation of Public Comments 

  1. Final Regional Plan Committee Review and Recommendations 

  1. Joint retreat with the City Council, Board of Supervisors, Planning and Zoning Commissioners (advertised as Citizen Review session for the City) 

  1. City of Flagstaff Public Hearings with the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council 

  1. City of Flagstaff Voter Ratification 

  1. Coconino County Public Hearings with the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Supervisors 

Regional Plan 101 Handout from Workshops
Visiong Summary Report
CBO Partner Description


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