City launches strategic planning process — and now the information gathering begins

The consultant hired by the City of Edmonds to oversee development of a city strategic plan officially launched the process Wednesday night, explaining his approach to members of the Edmonds City Council, Planning Board and Economic Development Commission — along with a few dozen citizens — gathered in the Council Chambers.

Tom Beckwith of Beckwith Consulting Group walked those in the room through a packet of a materials outlining the process the group will follow during the plan’s development, which will run from now through April 2012. The ambitious schedule includes monthly joint retreats with council, planning board and economic development commission members, set for the fourth Tuesday of the month with the exception of late December (due to the holidays, that date is to be determined).

The group has many tasks ahead of it during the nine-month planning process, including assessment of recent city plans and projects (for example, recent levy committee reports and Westgate and Five Corners design projects), and work with City Department Directors to view the city’s Comprehensive Plan and budget materials as well as a variety of data about Edmonds and the region, ranging from U.S. Census figures to Snohomish County property values.

“It’s intensive but I think you’ll find it very worthwhile,” Beckwith told the group.

A key component of the process will be public involvement, and Beckwith asked the strategic planning group members to submit names of individuals and organizations that should be interviewed. After Beckwith’s team completes a phase of the public engagement process (for the next month, the focus will be on “stakeholder” interviews and/or focus group sessions with key officials, property and business owners,  and user groups), the results will be discussed at the next retreat, in this case Oct. 25.  Among the questions to be asked for this first phase: extent of involvement in city activities and perceived problems or opportunities with existing/future conditions.

Other ways the City and its consultant plan to engage the entire Edmonds community in developing a strategic plan over a nine-month time frame include:

– on-the-street interviews with residents and visitors

– mail-back surveys of business owners, employees and customers

– surveys of Edmonds middle school and high school students

– continuous online surveys of residents

– a “visioning charrette” in late November involving persons recruited via personal invitation and public notice to participate

– open houses on strategic plan proposal

–  phone/Internet surveys with registered voters on final opinions, preferences and priorities

In addition, the consulting team will create information links and newsletters that will be posted to the city’s website.

Public hearings on the final strategic plan document will be conducted with the Planning Board and City Council in March and April.

A Q&A on the strategic planning process that was distributed at Wednesday night’s meeting is here. My Edmonds News will post additional information as it becomes available.

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