The Freese and Nichols project team behind the Siloam Springs Comprehensive Plan received a 2022 American Planning Association – Arkansas Chapter Planning Award at the recent chapter planning conference in Conway, Arkansas in November 2022.
Summary | The City of Siloam Springs recently completed the development of a new comprehensive plan to help guide the City’s future. The plan includes recommendations related to land use, mobility, economic development, housing, community character, public facilities and infrastructure.
The comprehensive planning process occurred over an 18-month process, between January 2021 and June 2022. The process began with the development of a community snapshot to document the existing conditions and characteristics of Siloam Springs. Next, community engagement through the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) and community wide events led to the identification of key issues, guiding principles for the Plan’s recommendations, and a vision statement. An action plan was then developed to address the community’s input, including a set of goals and associated action-oriented strategies to help the City achieve its goals. Finally, metrics and milestones were identified to measure plan implementation progress over time.
This plan is worthy of the Achievement in Comprehensive Plan Development award because it is specifically tailored to the City of Siloam Springs. It provides the necessary data and tools to ensure development in the coming years, reflects the community’s values and addresses fiscal responsibility in a fair and equitable manner. Each of the following review criteria is successfully conveyed in the planning process and final plan document.
Innovation | The planning process employed various innovative techniques; many are related to public engagement. A unique brand was developed for the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The Board of Directors even chose to adopt a modified version of the plan logo as the official City flag. A multipronged engagement approach allowed the community to connect with the project in various ways. Every in-person outreach effort was paired with an online component.
Representation on the CPAC was carefully structured to bring as many community groups and individuals as possible to the project, emphasizing underrepresented populations. Outreach materials were produced in English and Spanish; translation services were provided at public meetings; and Google Translate made the project website accessible in several different languages. The City’s social media channels, promotional videos, banners and word-of- mouth brought awareness to the project, and more than 400 email subscribers received monthly project updates. The project team developed an ArcGIS story map to document the planning process and convey the plan’s key elements to the community in an easy-to-navigate format.
Transferability | The planning process employed best practices informed by reliable data and a robust public involvement program. This type of effort is transferable to plan updates, small area or district plans, and other master planning efforts. It is consistent with the methodology used by the City to collaboratively develop a five-year strategic plan with annual updates that inform budgeting and resource allocation decisions.
Quality | The 2040 Comprehensive Plan is designed to span political terms and to guide all City departments. It is data-driven and customized to meet the needs of Siloam Springs. The document is graphic-rich and provides clear direction for land use decisions and the prioritization of City resources.
Implementation Effectiveness | The plan was developed with a focus on implementation. The City wanted a defensible and comprehensive policy to address growth while retaining the spirit and character of Siloam Springs. Practical recommendations for each topic addressed in the plan allow the community to stretch while maintaining reasonable expectations. The plan identifies performance metrics related to each of the eight guiding principles, providing a series of data points the City can use to monitor implementation and report progress towards achieving the community’s shared vision. A detailed action plan including an implementation matrix provides a road map for achieving the community’s shared vision.
Comprehensive | The 2040 Comprehensive Plan addresses the mandatory land use and transportation elements and expands to include sections on economic development, housing, resiliency, community character and public facilities. A fiscal market analysis included in the Economic Development chapter was used to determine whether there is a market for the uses called out in the new Future Land Use Map and what kind of absorption rates the City can expect. This allows the City to plan capital projects to ensure desired locations are ready for growth and quality of life amenities create the destinations that residents and employers want.
Background | The City of Siloam Springs’ previous comprehensive plan was adopted in 2008. It was used almost solely to guide decisions related to land use and development. The purpose of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan is to fortify progress made under the previous plan and carry forward that momentum to address new challenges and position the City for additional growth and development.
In early 2021, the City initiated a process to create a new comprehensive plan to support policies, projects, and programs that will shape the growth of the community for the coming decades. The City wanted the plan to reflect the “DNA of Siloam Springs” and serve as a tool for identifying and prioritizing actions necessary to achieve the community’s shared vision.
Methodology | The project kicked off in January 2021 and was conducted throughout the following 18 months. The four project phases emphasized public engagement. Feedback was essential in developing the plan’s vision and guiding principles as well as 118 plan recommendations.
Results | The plan developed a series of maps, data points and recommendations to guide land development decisions and position the City for success. These items include:
Future Land Use Plan and Map
Updated land use categories
Master street and alternative transportation plans
Fiscal market analysis
Comprehensive implementation matrix
Performance metrics to monitor progress
Conclusion | The plan will be a tool for the City of Siloam Springs to continue to deliver services that are desired and prioritized by the community. Progress will be monitored using a series of performance metrics that relate to the plan’s eight guiding principles. The 2040 Comprehensive Plan will serve Siloam Springs as it continues to grow for the coming decades.
Article written by Freese and Nichols. Learn more about urban planning and design at Freese and Nichols here.