St. Charles Parish has embarked on a new planning process that will shape its future. The process will result in a new comprehensive plan for the Parish, St. Charles 2030, Bridge to the Future. The plan is intended to guide decision-makers in managing future growth, promoting sustainable economic development, improving quality of life, and preserving our community’s unique character.
Meaningful public input will increase the effectiveness of the plan and the probability of its success. This is your future. What do YOU want it to look like?
We invite you to get involved through the multiple channels that, to that end, will be provided throughout this process, and to share your passion for St. Charles Parish by voicing your opinions. The success of this project depends on you.
For more information about the comprehensive plan and the planning process, go to www.stcharles2030blogspot.com.
What is a Comprehensive Plan?
A comprehensive plan is a statement of goals and objectives that establishes a community's vision for the future. While not technically a legal document dictating how a community is developed, a comprehensive plan is meant to outline a vision to be realized over time (usually a 20-year period) via planning policy and regulatory tools. Therefore, a comprehensive plan contains policy goals for every aspect of the community, including, for example, land use, transportation, housing, parks and open space, infrastructure, and economic development.
The Comprehensive Plan serves several purposes:
Guiding the Management of Change
Communities change, as do families, businesses, institutions and natural systems. Retaining conditions just as they are now is no more feasible than turning back the clock to a prior era. While change itself may be inevitable, the direction and rate of change and the kind of places which change produces, are not. The act of planning, in essence, reflects a decision not to accept “the inevitable,” but rather to influence and guide change to produce a future that gives us what we want; the kind of community we want to live in. The essential role of the Comprehensive Plan is as a guide for the management of change, through which we anticipate and solve problems, and seize opportunities to make our community better.
Reflecting Community Values and Aspirations
Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC (WRT), the lead consultant for the new comprehensive plan practices what is called call “values-driven” planning. This approach recognizes that the motivation in planning must be to respond to citizens’ aspirations for a desirable quality of life, for economic prosperity and for a community character that values beauty, retains identity and creates a sense of connectedness. While the plan will consider strategy and tactics and define technically correct answers to technical questions, these are secondary to the core “value” questions: What aspects of our life today do we value and wish to retain and enhance? What are our aspirations for the future of our community? What are we willing to do to achieve this future?
Providing a Foundation for Policies, Strategies and Actions
The Comprehensive Plan will only be as valid as the vision that inspires and motivates it, and the policies, strategies and actions that will carry it out. It is necessary, but not sufficient, to identify sound growth concepts. Vision and concepts must be backed by sound, factual understanding of the dynamics of community change. These begin with national and regional socio-economic and technological trends and other external influences. Local market and growth pressures influence investment and land use patterns, which in turn influence, and are influenced by, transportation and other public facility demands, all of which determine the community’s fiscal health and quality of life. With a multitude of variables and choices, the planning process sorts and compares concepts and strategies, leading to the selection of an “optimum” – one that is technically sound, but also capable of broad public and political support.
Operating as the Community’s “To Do” List
Comprehensive plans often fall short by their failure to identify in detail the actions, timetables, responsibilities and resources required for effective implementation. The planning process is crafted as a continuum – from Vision to Goals, Objectives, Policies and Strategies, to a timeline of short-term, intermediate and long-term Actions – that becomes the community’s “to do” list. To gain immediate traction requires an implementation element that clearly spells out:
An action program and schedule identifying short, mid-term and long-term actions to be taken, where responsibilities are assigned and with what resources.
A protocol for plan administration, updating and amendment that ensures, with legal authority, that the plan cannot be “put on the shelf.”
An annual “report card” that identifies what parts of the action program have and have not been acted upon and any associated revisions.
Providing a Catalyst for Community Consensus
Questions of how to deal with growth and change often elicit very different responses from citizens. Long-time residents sometimes resist change, whether in the place, or the way of life that they have known. Relative newcomers may be more receptive to what growth can bring with it: better local jobs and shopping and a greater variety of activities and amenities. Others may simply be unaware of the degree of growth and change that is just over the horizon and how it may affect them. The process of preparing the comprehensive plan must raise public awareness of the quantitative measures of growth the community is facing and the qualitative measures of quality of life that may affected. The planning process must often act as a wake-up call, prompting recognition of the trends underway and their consequences, raising awareness of the choices to be made in how this growth might be best managed, and guiding public opinion toward a consensus on what approach is best for the common good of the community.
How will the comprehensive plan be developed?
The process of preparing St. Charles 2030, Bridge to the Future has been structured as a logical progression of (generally) sequential, highly interrelated steps. Commencing in mid-June 2009, the process is expected to take approximately eighteen (18) months, conditional on scheduling of public involvement activities, review periods, and other factors out of the control of the planning team.
Phase 1. Mobilization
The key preliminary step in the mobilization phase was the formation of a Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (link to next section), a group of individuals appointed to represent the various sectors of the community in this citizen-driven planning process.
The planning process with a series of “kickoff meetings” with staff, Parish Council and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee; a review of available data, mapping, and information resources; a tour of the Parish to familiarize the planning team with the community; and a series of individual interviews with public officials and Parish department heads. The purpose of these interviews (which will likely expand in coming months to include outside agencies, community organizations, the business community, and others) is for the planning team to understand the range of opinions and expectations about issues and challenges that the comprehensive plan is likely to have to deal with over the course of the planning process.
Phase 2. Framing the Vision
The next step in the planning process involved "framing a vision” for the future of St. Charles Parish and its various communities. The vision will serve as the 20-year planned destination for the Parish, and will provide the benchmark for the development of every policy aspect of the comprehensive plan in subsequent phases of the process.
Thus far, the planning team has held a series of facilitated visioning events at different locations throughout the Parish (along with other outreach techniques), to solicit public input. Working with the Steering Committee, the planning team used this input to formulate a Vision Statement that captures citizens’ aspirations and expectations for the future of St. Charles Parish and its various communities. The Vision Statement was adopted by the Parish Council and is the policy touchstone for the development of the comprehensive plan.
Phase 3. Existing Conditions, Trends, and Issues
Concurrent with the development of the vision, the planning team has developed a community assessment to identify the likely future form and character of St. Charles Parish if present trends continue. The community assessment includes analyses of the current planning and regulatory context; demographic characteristics and trends; land use patterns and development capacities; existing condition of Parish transportation, sewer, water, and other infrastructure and public facilities systems; local, regional, and global economic conditions and trends; natural, cultural and historic resources; environmental constraints; housing and neighborhood characteristics; and others. At the conclusion of this phase, the emerging “trend picture” will be compared to the Vision developed in Phase 2, to provide the Steering Committee, staff, and elected officials an understanding of how the Parish may have to change direction to move toward the Vision. The public will also be invited to review the results of this phase and to discuss needed “course corrections.”
Phase 4. Policy Framework
This phase involves identifying a framework of policy directions to achieve a future consistent with the Vision. The planning team will work closely with the Steering Committee during this phase to answer two key questions: What are our choices in strategy to achieve our vision? Which of those are most effective, and most appropriate to St. Charles Parish? Alternatives will be put forward by the planning team, in graphic (maps), tabular, and text form, describing the possible pattern and character of future development and supporting infrastructure, transportation and service systems; as well as potential tools for natural resource protection, economic growth, public investment and other aspects of community development. The planning team will help the Steering Committee to evaluate each option and reach consensus on an optimal set of strategic directions for St. Charles Parish. These, in turn, will serve as the basis for developing draft goals, policies, and actions for each plan element. The public will be invited to review and comment on the draft policy framework at a series of interactive open-house events.
Phase 5. Plan Preparation, Review, and Adoption
The final phase of the planning process includes the preparation of the Comprehensive Plan document and the process necessary to secure its adoption. The work of the previous phases is refined and compiled into a single, cohesive document during this phase. The Comprehensive Plan will be organized as a series of “elements,” each with its own set of goals, policies, and actions in support of the vision and of each of the other elements. The anticipated elements of the plan include:
Housing and Neighborhoods
Community Character - Natural and Built Environment
Infrastructure and Public Facilities
Parks, Recreation and Open Space
An additional element, implementation, provides the critical link between the plan’s vision and the Parish’s commitment to action. The implementation element will establish a clear set of priorities for short, intermediate, and long-term regulatory, capital investment, and other types of actions.
A draft of the plan document will be presented to the public in an open-house format. The Planning Commission and Parish Council will also have the opportunity to review and comment on the document before taking action to adopt the plan.
Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee
The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) is a hands-on, broadly representative group created to guide and inform the planning process. The job description of the CPSC is four-fold. First, throughout the planning process, the CPSC must represent the interests of all citizens of the Parish, as well as those of each individual member’s constituencies. Second, the CPSC is responsible for reaching consensus and providing guidance to the planning team on overall strategic direction. Third, by taking ownership of the planning process, the CPSC will serve as a “champion” for the resulting plan and help to ensure citizen buy-in. Finally, the CPSC serves in an advisory capacity to the Parish Council on matters related to the development of the comprehensive plan.
Following is a list of the members of the CPSC:
Fire Department (alternate)
Chairman, Planning Board of Commissions
South Central Planning & Development Commission
John Campo, AIA
Sheriff Greg Champagne
Sheriff, St. Charles Parish
Large Land Owner
Ms Tyrell D. Cornwell
Boutte, Faith based community alternate
Killona Community (and Fire Chief)
Bayou Gauche, Selection Committee Member
Fire Department, Paradis
Dow St. Charles Operation Industry
LJ (Jack) Fisher
Norco, Selection Committee Member
Montz Civic Association
Bishop Otis Kenner
Faith based organization, New Sarpy
Local land developer, attorney
CEO, St. Charles Parish Hospital
Dr. Ray Matherne, Ph D
Developer, Coastal Advisory Board
Councilman, District 7
School District Representative
Historic Preservation, Community Activist, Selection Committee Member
Parks and Recreation
Realtor, Selection Committee Member
Boutte, Faith based community
Debra Dufrense Vial
Large land owner
Captain Jonathan Walsdorf
Sheriff alternate, Emergency Response
The CPSC will meet approximately on a monthly basis throughout the planning process. Meeting dates, agendas, and meeting notes will be posted on this page as process moves forward.
The preparation of St. Charles Parish’s new comprehensive plan is a collaborative effort between the Parish’s Planning Department and a consultant team led by Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC (WRT). In addition, the Planning Team is assisted by the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX), based in Baton Rouge.
The consultant team consists of the following firms:
Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT)
WRT (www.wrtdesign.com) is a leading multidisciplinary planning and design firm with a staff of over 200 and offices in Philadelphia, Coral Gables, New York, Dallas, San Francisco, and San Diego. WRT's leadership in sustainable city and regional planning traces back to the legacy of firm co-founder Ian McHarg, whose landmark book Design with Nature established a new paradigm for reconciling growth with natural and cultural resource preservation. WRT practices “values-driven” planning, an approach that acts upon the values and aspirations of each community, challenging citizens and community leaders to become engaged in charting their community's future. This approach is especially well suited for a community such as St. Charles Parish, which seeks innovation and effectiveness in achieving a sustainable future, while maintaining and enhancing the outstanding quality of life and community character that citizens expect. WRT’s approach integrates citizen engagement with a strategic focus on practical, achievable implementation and building-capacity to realize the vision.
WRT's national track record in comprehensive planning includes cities seeking a renewed vision, community identity, growth management, and economic vitality, as reflected in plans such as Omaha by Design, the Cornerstone 2025 Plan for Louisville and Jefferson County (KY), the Connections 2025 Plan for Greensboro (NC), and the Portsmouth (VA) Destination 2025 Comprehensive Plan. WRT has extensive planning experience in Louisiana, including the Action Plan to Rebuild New Orleans, the master plan for Bossier City’s Cyber Innovation Center, and New Orleans’ City Park master plan.
WRT's team includes Burk-Kleinpeter, Inc. (www.bkiusa.com), an outstanding Louisiana-based engineering and planning firm with an extensive track record of experience in infrastructure, and intimate knowledge of St. Charles Parish’s issues. BKI was founded in 1910 as an architectural firm, and has since become one of the leading engineering firms operating in the southeastern United States. In recent years, BKI has consistently ranked among the Top 20 engineering firms in the south central United States and has been included in the Engineering News Record Top 500 List. With over 120 employees, BKI remains dedicated to providing the highest standard of engineering through creative planning, administration, design, and state-of-the-art technology. With a multi-disciplinary platform of experience and abilities, BKI integrates the proven best-practices from all our disciplines with a keen eye to the future to meet our clients’ big picture needs in ever changing environments. BKI’s team of professionals provide a complete array of services to municipalities, public and private development entities, architects, and state and federal agencies.
The consultant team also includes LSA Associates, Inc. (http://www.lsa-assoc.com), based in California and Colorado, who are recognized national leaders in the development of long-range transportation plans for communities that prioritize planning in their land development and transportation improvement processes. The planning and engineering services provided by LSA’s transportation specialists grow from a deep understanding of the complex relationship among transportation, our communities, and our environment. LSA's transportation team is recognized for its creative, solution-oriented approach and its sensitivity to the communities LSA's work will affect.
Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX)
The Center for Planning Excellence (http://www.planningexcellence.org) is a non-profit organization that coordinates urban, rural and regional planning efforts in Louisiana. We provide best-practice planning models, innovative policy ideas, and technical assistance to individual communities that wish to create and enact master plans dealing with transportation and infrastructure needs, equitable housing opportunities, environmental issues, and quality design for the built environment. CPEX brings community members and leaders together and provides guidance as they work toward a shared vision for future growth and development. St. Charles Parish was one of five communities chosen by CPEX in August 2009 to participate in its Louisiana Community Planning Program. The Parish was awarded $100,000 in seed funding for development of the comprehensive plan, which the Parish matched.
For questions about St Charles 2030: Bridge to the Future, contact:
Kim Marousek-Marretta, Director of Planning and Zoning
Stephen Romano, Development Review Planner
Marny Stein, Development Review Planner