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Decatur City Commission adopts 2030 strategic plan, wins award for planning process

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Decatur City Commission adopts 2030 strategic plan, wins award for planning process

Decatur Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill (left) presented the strategic plan, along with the consultants from TSW, to the City Commission on Monday, Oct. 18. The City Commission adopted the 2030 strategic plan on Monday night. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its Oct. 18 meeting, unanimously adopted the Destination 2030 strategic plan, which will be the guide for planning projects, policies and priorities over the next 10 years.

The strategic plan is the document the city will use as the basis for how Decatur sees and responds to challenges and opportunities. The document serves as the city’s guide for planning its priorities, policies and projects. It is updated every 10 years, according to the city’s strategic plan website.

During the public participation process, there was generally strong support for all the action items in the strategic plan, but many wanted more ambitious goals for clean energy targets and equity, according to the city’s consultants.

To view the full strategic plan, click here.

The city also won a couple awards through the Georgia Planning Association related to the strategic plan.

The city of Decatur and TSW, the consultants who worked on the strategic plan, received the award for outstanding planning process, which recognized the quality and completeness of the overall planning process of the strategic plan, Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill said.

“This award honors the most comprehensive and holistic overall planning process,” Threadgill said. “This includes the comprehensiveness of technical and data analysis, stakeholder and community outreach, the documentation and deliverables, and positioning for implementation.”

She added that the award recognizes the work of the city and the consultants, but also recognizes the commitment of the community to come together and achieve an outstanding and meaningful public process.

The Georgia Planning Association added a new award this year for outstanding leadership in equity, diversity and inclusion in recognition of GPA’s goal to make sure community planning is a craft for everyone.

“The GPA awarded the Better Together Advisory Board and Sycamore Consulting for their important work in equity, diversity and inclusion. We see this accomplishment through their anti-racism speaker series, which we were able to incorporate into the strategic planning process through our community 202s,” Threadgill said.

The award is given to a person, organization, project or practice that shows a sustained commitment to advocacy by addressing the concerns of women, minorities and underrepresented groups through specific actions or contributions within the planning profession or through the planning process, she added.

The city is required by the Atlanta Regional Commission and the state Department of Community Affairs to update its strategic plan every 10 years in order to participate in state transportation grant programs, among other things. Both agencies approved the city’s strategic plan last week.

The city simultaneously updated the city’s Livable Centers Initiative plan and its Comprehensive Plan during the strategic planning process, both of which have to be updated every five years.

Threadgill and the consulting team from TSW presented the draft strategic plan to the City Commission on Aug. 16. The team has made some changes since then, including adding more data citations, adding information about the land use categories, and adding historic preservation and architectural character to the place making recommendation, which also includes creating a downtown master plan.

The community work plan was also simplified to be a five-year vision of action items focusing on concrete projects that can be done in five years, said Sarah McColley, one of the consultants at TSW who worked on the plan.

The community work program is a structure of the state Department of Community Affairs to layout actionable items that have a specific date, that the city can tie a budget to, where those resources are coming from and who will be doing the work. It is up to the City Commission to prioritize these action items during their annual strategic planning retreat, Threadgill said.

The 2030 draft strategic plan focuses on six areas: equity and racial justice, climate action, civic trust, affordable housing, mobility, and economic growth.

 “The public really rallied around the idea that a lot of the issues are interconnected and interrelated,” McColley said. “Equity and racial justice were the overarching lenses that we filtered everything through.”

The recommendations throughout the plan are organized around the themes. Many action items are also related to specific plans — either implementing plans that have been completed or recommending new plans or updated plans. Some action items from the previous strategic plan that are still in progress or are ongoing were carried over into the new plan.

Under the equity and racial justice topic, recommendations include creating a community-directed reparations task force to look at the history of Decatur and action items. The plan additionally states a goal to develop a racial equity action plan that would spell out specific actions for how the city government can become more equitable, including the role of each city department.

“A number of other items are related to tools that the city can use to evaluate decision-making and their impact on different groups in the city and beyond, and also thinking about staffing and how different positions at City Hall an affect that and continue the conversation on this,” said Woody Giles, one of the consultants at TSW who worked on the plan.

Climate change is another broader topic that came out of the public participation process. While developing the strategic plan, the consultants and city staff frequently heard a desire from the community about establishing clean energy targets. The city is working on developing a clean energy plan. The plan was discussed earlier this month at an Environmental Sustainability Board meeting. But the city wanted to make sure this was included in the plan.

In terms of affordable housing recommendations, the strategic plan makes most of the recommendations from the Affordable Housing Task Force official city policy. The plan includes recommendations related to additional options in permanent affordability and thinking about how transportation and other things relate to housing costs.

The strategic plan additionally states that Decatur has a unique brand and the city should focus on that when it comes to economic growth. The city should grow the businesses that are in the city, but also attract the companies that make sense, that fit into the city.

“As part of that, we heard from the community concerns about taxes. This is really a big step that you can take toward diversifying the tax base, and honestly something you’ve made a lot of progress on since the last strategic plan,” Giles said. “As there’s more commercial and fewer single-family homes, it’s just a little more diverse tax base.”

Commissioner Kelly Walsh said she finds the plan to be more holistic than the previous strategic plan. She hopes the city uses the connectivity of the plan to prioritize and look at where the city finds the most intersectionality, as it would have the most impact on the most people.

Some concerns were raised about being able to accomplish all the action items in the strategic plan and potentially not finishing a goal that’s in the plan, as not everything in the previous plan was completed.

“Everything that’s on this action item list is important,” Commissioner Lesa Mayer said. “It really concerns me deeply that we may choose to not accomplish something in our plan that is more challenging or more painful because our definition of success is not 100%, A+.”

Mayer added that the equity tasks in the strategic plan are weak.

“I think they’re weak, and I think they’re a cop out,” Mayer said. “I think while this is documented, the real effort needs to come from doing some of the work that’s going to be a little bit harder and that have a little bit more of a commitment to them. I like seeing things like establish a reparations task force, but we have a reputation of task forcing things to death.”

She would prefer to see that goal be more of an action item with an end result and some definition of what the task force would do.

“I love that we have equity goals listed in here for as early in the plan as next year. That’s amazing,” Mayer said. “I just want to make sure that when we look at the task items in this plan, we do not allow this to limit the progress that we can make over the next few years, especially when it comes to the important work related to equity.”

Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers said the things that are pressure points and near and dear to the community are the things that bubble to the top of the list during the strategic planning retreat.

“Because that is where all the action is,” Powers said. “All the money and all the effort that we want to put into those things, while they may be painful, it is something that does not get deferred kicked down the road because I think it is the appropriate thing at that time.”

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