October is National Community Planning Month! Kudos to all the planners that work hard to keep communities safe and equitable! What is community planning exactly and what does it have to do with you? Community planners work to maintain neighborhoods so that they are equitable, accessible, and prosperous for their residents. A planner’s efforts might include making housing more affordable, making transportation more accessible, preparing for natural disasters, or creating economic development opportunities. Essentially, planners work to sustain existing neighborhoods or create plans to reform inadequate neighborhoods so residents can live in viable communities. You might think of them as managers of a community.
Effective planning professionals generally procure and use the feedback they receive from residents. They give community members an opportunity to speak about what exactly they’d like to see happen in their town. Unfortunately, planners don’t always solicit community feedback for each project they work on, and sometimes they don’t have the time to receive comments from the public. Maybe you’ve experienced changes in your neighborhood that you were unhappy with. Planners are constantly trying to generate beautiful and active neighborhoods, but they don’t always consider every demographic. For example, Montgomery County has built many floating bus stops, especially in Downtown Silver Spring. They didn’t consider how inaccessible these bus stops would be for those that have visual disabilities. The floating bus stops are nearly impossible to navigate if you are partially or fully blind. The Montgomery County Planning team received lots of feedback on this issue and they are working to create solutions.
Every individual should have the opportunity to convey their wants and needs to the planners making decisions on behalf of their community. Good and effective planning departments allow their community members to voice their concerns and opinions. Montgomery County allows its residents to attend meetings and submit comments. The Montgomery County Planning Board welcomes members of the public to participate in their meetings and decisions. Most plans, visions, and goals are posted online so community members have a chance to view them. I encourage all community members to voice their opinions to their respective planning departments. Community planners want to make neighborhoods the best they can be and residents should be a significant part of those processes.
Tara Feikes moved to Maryland three years ago from Iowa to attend the University of Maryland’s Community Planning Master’s program. Her passion for the environment and public transportation drove her to pursue urban planning. Most of the work she’s done throughout graduate school has included projects concerning agricultural preservation, environmental policy, and growth management. She is thrilled to be an intern for Independence Now this semester, working on transportation accessibility issues for those with disabilities.