Projects

Coastal and local: Texas tools for community resiliency and storm recovery

Abstract

Texas Sea Grant proposes a resiliency training program for elected and appointed local government officials along the Texas Gulf Coast modeled after the Michigan Citizen Planner Program. Planning and other citizen boards often do not have a clear picture of how ordinances and plans can work together to achieve resiliency and smart growth in their communities and local economies. Nor do they have the amount of knowledge or resources to properly evaluate if development proposals fit with local plans, promote public safety, or conflict with natural coastal processes.

A regional coordinating committee of seasoned local planning practitioners and academics will help guide the adoption of the MSU Citizen Planner program to the Texas coast and help select and recruit appropriate faculty for the program from practitioners and academic planning programs from across the coast and the State. In addition, this committee will help recruit the first TCCP class.

The curriculum will initially be built around the following topic areas:

  1. Introduction to Planning
  2. Legal Foundations of Land Use Planning;
  3. Local Officials' Roles & Responsibilities I;
  4. Local Officials' Roles & Responsibilities II;
  5. Placemaking and Economic Development;
  6. Green/ Agroecological Infrastructure;
  7. Coastal Hazards and Planning for Resilient Comunities;
  8. Plan Implementation and Development Controls;
  9. Public Participation.

The Texas program will last for eleven months and provide eight 2.5 hour sessions. We project that between 20 to 30 participants will enroll in the program. The course will be a non-credit course series leading to a "Citizen Planner" certificate of completion awarded by TAMU Texas Sea Grant. The course will conclude with a capstone GIS coastal development scenario exercise, designed to illustrate the connections between future growth, patterns of development, and coastal risks. The exercise is called CHARM- Community Health and Resource Management Model.

Objectives

The Objectives for the Texas Coastal Citizen Planner (TCCP) program are to:

  1. Recruit a Regional Coordinating Committee of expert academicians and practicing planners to
  2. help guide the development of the TCCP;
  3. Develop a core of regional academic planners and practitioners who can provide the training
  4. associated with the Texas Coastal Citizen Planner program;
  5. Develop an initial curriculum, working with the regional coordinating committee, of eight
  6. modules as described below;
  7. Recruit 20-30 locally elected and appointed officials (LEAO) to form the first TCCP class;
  8. Organize, carry out, and graduate the first Texas Coastal Citizen Planner (TCCP) class;
  9. Lay the foundation for a cadre or network of trained LEAO who can serve as mentors for future TCCP classes and help advance resilience planning all along the Texas coast.

Methodology

Texas Sea Grant proposes a resiliency training program for elected and appointed local government officials along the Texas Gulf Coast modeled after the Michigan Citizen Planner Program. Planning boards often do not have a clear picture of how ordinances and plans can work together to achieve resiliency and smart growth in their communities and local economies. Nor do they have the amount of knowledge or resources to properly evaluate if development proposals fit with local plans, promote public safety, or conflict with natural coastal processes.

The Michigan program, which serves as a model for this program, has improved local decision makers' knowledge, enabling communities to follow community planning priorities and resolve situations with more confidence and less controversy. By customizing a coastal-based curriculum to educate local officials, the program has the potential to improve coastal risk management and promote resiliency within the framework of local planning strategies.

The course program will also include a capstone exercise that utilizes GIS and CommunityViz® software. The half-day exercise is designed to reinforce the curriculum and allows participants to test hypothetical planning strategies over a 30-year time horizon. The goal of the exercise is to challenge business-as-usual thinking about coastal development, and to draw attention to real vulnerabilities in coastal communities.

Rationale

Hundreds of locally elected and appointed officials (LEAO) enter public service along the Texas Gulf Coast every year. Many of these officials deal everyday with questions that directly influence issues of urban form and land use planning, and thus have a large impact on the resilience of coastal communities in a time of ever growing coastal populations and climate change. Most of these officials are motivated by an ethic of service, and they want to do the right thing. But few of them have any training in the art and science of community planning.

All along the Gulf Coast, local decision makers enter public service understanding only a fraction of the landuse and the disaster planning tools available to them. This is a disservice to public safety and sound economic development along the coast, where forecasts call for a doubling of development by 2040. The land use decisions made now and in the coming years will determine how resilient our critical facilities and communities will be for the next 30 years and beyond. The importance of this is underscored by the increasing complexity of coastal risk management intersecting the needs of growing communities, natural resource conservation, and public safety.

To address these gaps in planning knowledge and resiliency training, Texas Sea Grant proposes a program to place the tools of resilient coastal development into the hands of "citizen planners" through a validated curriculum adapted to the needs of the Gulf Coast. This will be achieved through a sustained 8-session training program for local officials in land use policy tools, resiliency evaluations, and a capstone GIS-supported, participant-driven exercise to test future growth scenarios and planning strategies. The curriculum will emphasize coastal hazards and storms, and be designed specifically for participants who are most responsible for the way our Texas coast develops-- local planning board members and their planning staff, mayors, city council members, county judges and commissioners, and park boards, among others.

For More Information Contact: the MASGC Research Coordinator, Loretta Leist (Loretta.leist@usm.edu). Please reference the project number R/MG/CSP-24.