At a joint City Council Lunch meeting with the Planning and Zoning Commission and Forward SGF Advisory Team Tuesday, Jan. 28, planning consultant Houseal Lavigne Associates and Planning and Development staff presented an overview of the Forward SGF Issues and Opportunities Report, which identifies critical issues and opportunities that should be addressed by the City’s next Comprehensive Plan.
The analysis for the report was informed by past planning efforts, demographic trends, community outreach, and extensive research to establish a complete understanding of Springfield today. The report serves as the foundation of Forward SGF by highlighting community priorities, potentials and key issues that need to be improved.
Community Outreach and Engagement
Over the course of three months, the initial phase of the Forward SGF outreach program yielded a large amount of information regarding the issues and opportunities facing the Springfield community, according to the report.
During the fall of 2019, a total of 57 workshops were conducted, engaging nearly 1,500 participants in face-to-face community engagement exercises. In addition, over 5,500 people participated online through a series of surveys and use of Map.Social, an online mapping tool. The Forward SGF Community Outreach Summary report is publicly available through the Forward SGF project website (forwardsgf.com), which provides an in-depth summary of major talking points and online survey responses. Key themes from community outreach have been integrated throughout the report in corresponding sections.
Key assets and strengths represent the positive aspects of the Springfield community that should be preserved as the Forward SGF Comprehensive Plan provides recommendations for the future. The City’s outdoor and natural areas were identified as top assets, followed closely by higher education institutions. In addition, residents’ ability to collaborate on issues facing the community were highlighted as a top strength of the community. While Springfield has numerous assets, a selection of assets have been profiled throughout the report to ensure that issues are discussed alongside positive elements of the community.
Land Use and Development
Existing land use and development in Springfield has been inventoried to identify issues and opportunities related to the City’s built form, character, and sense of place. The analysis contained in the report included field reconnaissance and review of the City’s Land and Development Code and municipal land use data. This inventory will be used to inform recommendations of Forward SGF regarding where to direct future development and investment in Springfield. This section also includes an overview of market potential for retail, office, and industrial uses, and a review of the existing housing stock.
The Forward SGF planning process will utilize a place-based approach to land use planning that characterizes specific areas based on their character, scale, form and function. This place-based approach is not focused on the use of a specific parcel, but rather is concerned with the collective mix of uses that establish a place.
Existing land use and development has been characterized by using a place-based approach that defines 12 “placetypes” within Springfield.
Taken together, the placetypes provide a land use and development palette that defines all existing areas of the City. By thinking of Springfield as a collection of unique places, Forward SGF will promote the development of places at a neighborhood or district scale, providing for a greater deal of flexibility and potential for innovation. The place-based approach promotes development and reinvestment that enables vacant and underutilized parcels and blocks by focusing no just on land use, but also on design, functionality and access to infrastructure.
The intent of the Forward SGF Comprehensive Plan is to preserve Springfield’s established neighborhoods and commercial districts, while encouraging reinvestment and new development that provides for a sustainable future. The place-based approach will allow the City and its partners to effectively plan and manage existing unique areas and define desired growth and development across the City and in adjacent areas of Greene County.
Issues & Actions
The report summarizes a wide variety of issues and opportunities within Springfield that were identified by the community. The Comprehensive Plan, however, is geared towards spatial issues related to future development and growth and will not address all themes presented in the document, according to Mary Lilly Smith, Director of Planning & Development.
“Several of the outreach themes highlighted in this report can be dealt with directly in the Comprehensive Plan, while others will require an indirect approach. For example, the plan will be able to directly address housing issues using established mechanisms such as the zoning ordinance and code enforcement,” said Planning and Development Director Mary Lilly Smith. “However, issues such as education and crime are less impacted by land use and development policy and infrastructure projects. For these issues, the Comprehensive Plan can play an indirect role by addressing environmental contributors to the issue and raising awareness of community priorities that need to be dealt with outside of the Forward SGF planning process.”
Poverty, crime, homelessness, lack of public transportation and low wages were the most frequently mentioned issues within Springfield. Similarly, addressing homelessness, improving public transportation, beautifying the City, improving sidewalk and trail connectivity and reducing crime were the top five actions community members would like to see undertaken.
The lack of inclusion and lack of diversity regarding racial and ethnic groups, the LGBTQ community, and people of varied socioeconomic backgrounds were highlighted as the top two concerns by the business community. Participants expressed that the community is not welcoming to different types of people and beliefs and that there is a need for stronger inclusion.
The report also noted that there is concern within the community that Springfield is experiencing trouble attracting and retaining the next generation of talented workers. Several workshop participants identified “brain drain,” where the well-educated graduates from local universities move elsewhere for better employment opportunities, as a top priority.
Other issues noted in the report include a lack of pedestrian connectivity, bicycle infrastructure, beautification, community identity, the need for more diversity in housing choices, traffic and congestion, and access to health care.
The completion of the Issues and Opportunities Report signifies the end of the first phase of the comprehensive planning process, providing a snapshot of the “here and now.” Community engagement will continue throughout the planning process. As the City has now established a strong understanding of what Springfield is like today, the next step is to work with the community to form a unified vision as follows
The Forward SGF team will conduct public visioning workshops featuring a mapping exercise where participants will put pen to paper in small groups and work together to define their vision for Springfield and illustrate the future the community desires to achieve. Input from this workshop series will be used to refine the preliminary list of community issues and identify Comprehensive Plan priorities.
The workshops will be held:
Tuesday, Jan. 28
Oasis Convention Center, 2546 N. Glenstone
Wednesday, Jan. 29
University Plaza Hotel, 333 S. Hammons Parkway
Relics Event Center, 2015 W. Battlefield
“The visioning phase of the process is one of key community input opportunities. It’s critical that we get great representation from across the city, including area, businesses, employers, the workforce, students, neighborhood leaders, as well as long-time and short-time residents of Springfield,” said Forward SGF Project Coordinator Randall Whitman.
Goals & Objectives
Future community outreach will also include focus groups to further define community goals and identify preliminary policies related to specific planning themes, such as transportation, parks and open space, and housing.
The vision, goals, and objectives will be used to guide the development of action-oriented recommendations for City-wide plans and policies, which can be considered the “core” of the Comprehensive Plan.
Forward SGF is Springfield’s next Comprehensive Plan, which will create a long-term vision for the City to implement over the next 20 years.
Forward SGF kicked off in August 2019 and continued through the fall, with dozens of public engagement events to gather input on Springfield’s strengths, weaknesses, and topics the community felt the comprehensive planning process should address. A 23-member advisory team serves as a community sounding board, meeting at key points during the process to review and discuss issues and discuss overall planning direction and provide feedback on key deliverables for Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council consideration.
- Tom Prater, Chair – Zone 2
- David Atkisson – Zone 4
- Laurel Bryant – Zone 2
- Brad Erwin – County
- Leslie Forrester – Zone 2
- Tammy Jahnke – County
- Britton Jobe – Zone 4
- Amy Kern Stanfield – Zone 3
- Ashley Norgard – Zone 4
- Dee Ogilvy – Zone 1
- Daniel Ogunyemi- Zone 2
- John Oke-Thomas – County
- Paige Oxendine – Zone 3
- Danny Perches – County
- Pete Radecki – Zone 1
- Tom Rankin – Zone 4
- Robin Robeson- Zone 4
- Tim Rosenbury – Zone 4
- Debbie Shantz Hart – Zone 2
- Amanda Stadler – Zone 1
- Susie Turner – Zone 2
- Judy Wyrick – Zone 3
- Becky Volz – Zone 1
The plan will help guide positive growth within the community and inform future decision making regarding planning and development. This includes strategies, policies and recommendations for future land use, transportation, community facilities, natural resources, and sustainability. Forward SGF will be built off of past planning efforts, existing policies that remain relevant, and at its core, community input from an extensive outreach process. It will create a cohesive vision that is representative of Springfield’s residents, businesses, and community stakeholders, and will establish the critical steps in making that vision come true.
Why is a Comprehensive Plan needed?
Missouri law requires that any municipality with a planning and zoning commission must adopt a Comprehensive Plan to guide the physical development of the municipality. According to Sections 89.300-89.490 of the 2018 Revised Statutes of Missouri, the plan must illustrate recommendations for land use and development, and may also include recommendations regarding the roadway network and other public ways and spaces, public utilities, and blighted areas.
The statutes also state that the general purpose of the plan, “should be to guide the coordinated development of the municipality, in accordance with existing and future needs, to best promote the general welfare, as well as efficiency and economy in the process of development.” A typical Comprehensive Plan outlines the existing conditions of the city, describes future goals and objectives for development and includes an action plan on how to achieve these goals and objectives.