In general, a neighborhood plan is a collaborative vision and blueprint to guide physical, capital, and organizational resources to achieve the desired vision for a specific geographic sub-area of the city/county. It should be collaborative in nature involving informed stakeholders of the community who have a vested interest (resident, property owner, business, church, neighborhood association, etc.) in a neighborhood’s future outcome. This group of stakeholders should also include key implementers (city government agencies, consultants, banks, developers, etc.) who can lend technical advice and may have responsibility for turning the plan into reality.
The Comprehensive Planning section of the Department takes the lead responsibility for developing and facilitating neighborhood or area plans for inclusion to the Topeka/Shawnee County Comprehensive Metropolitan Plan.
Sections of a Neighborhood Plan
Some neighborhood plans will require a more comprehensive approach than others. The type of plan is dependent upon the neighborhood’s needs, but can contain the following set of elements and suggested types of content:
The first section should explain the background leading up to the plan, purpose of the plan, and the process undertaken. It is important to establish a clear purpose or expectation for doing the plan, its relation to the Comprehensive Plan or other plans, how the planning process was organized, time frames, and who was involved.
This section is an inventory of the built environment and the resident population. It should provide facts and analysis on the neighborhood’s existing conditions including its boundaries, development history, demographics, land uses, housing conditions, traffic circulation, crime, infrastructure, economic conditions, historic resources, etc. A summary of the conditions outlining opportunities and constraints for improvement should be provided at the end. To the extent that conditions are mapped would greatly aid in articulating issues of strengths and weaknesses. In addition, residents’ or stakeholder perceptions should be gathered to gauge the way people feel, irrespective of what the physical or quantitative “facts” say.
Vision and Goal Statements
This section forms the skeleton of a Plan. A vision statement (or graphic) “paints a picture” of what the community foresees their neighborhood looking and feeling like anywhere from 10 to 20 years into the future. Goal statements, policies, and/or guiding principles represent the community’s values and are used to set the framework of how this vision can be achieved. They can cover a broad range of policy issues such as land use, transportation, housing, parks and recreation, economic development, public safety, historic preservation, urban design, etc.
Concept Plan Map
Conceptualizes the intended land use and revitalization strategies in graphic format and depicts the generalized land uses, improvement areas, priorities, circulation, etc.
Land Use Plan
This is a more specific land use map than the concept plan that depicts desired future land use and development patterns suitable for amending the Comprehensive Plan. This section describes the objectives of the proposed land use categories and prescribes what type of development is or is not appropriate. Suitable primary uses, zoning districts, and development intensity/density should also be stated. Prescribed land uses may also be described by geographic sub-areas (e.g., west-side, north of the boulevard, etc.)
Revitalization and Development Strategies
Roughly following the topical outline of the goal statement categories, this section contains more specific strategies and/or policies needed to achieve the desired goals or guiding principles. In combination with the Land Use Plan, this section would represent the “meat” of the plan to go on the “skeleton” of the vision/goal section.
This section is reserved to answer “how” the strategies will be achieved in reality or the context of public/private actions. Zoning, capital improvements, financing, incentives or programs necessary to implement the Plan should be outlined in a chart format indicating their priority, timing, estimated costs (if known), funding sources, and organizational responsibility.
Types of Neighborhood Plans
Neighborhood plans currently fall into one of three categories: land use, revitalization, or area. Neighborhood plans are ideally designed to address cohesive areas with residential populations between 1,000 to 3,000 people (or that have the potential for) and for an area no larger than 160-200 acres. Planning areas exceeding these standards that are not broken down into smaller sub-areas/districts would be classified as an area plan.
The purpose of a land use plan is to establish official City policy guidance for future development and zoning proposals of a neighborhood or small area. A land use plan is generally a single-issue plan (land use), but includes sufficient physical and demographic data (see Neighborhood Profile) to know where the neighborhood is and where it is going. Neighborhoods that are more stable, but have land use conflicts that pose a threat to its overall livability and character, would be ideal candidates for such a plan.
Minimum elements of a land use plan include
- partial or full neighborhood profile
- vision and goal statements
- land use plan
- implementation (zoning)
The purpose of a revitalization plan is to go beyond that of policy guidance alone and actually establish intervention-type strategies that will require private or public funding and more aggressive action in order to stimulate reinvestment. Revitalization plans should involve all elements of a neighborhood plan. Neighborhoods that are less stable, display more blighted conditions, or are under redevelopment pressures would be ideal candidates for a revitalization plan. It also is important to have identified community-based service providers to assist in its implementation prior to initiating a process. Because of its very implications and comprehensiveness, a revitalization plan needs to maximize community participation to the fullest extent possible.
The purpose of an area plan could be similar to either a land use or revitalization plan except that it would be intended for a larger area that involves more than one neighborhood. It is best used in instances where an issue(s) impacts more than one neighborhood and requires a bigger picture point of view. Also, an area plan could be used to focus on a defined sub-area for a more detailed revitalization or land use plan.
Why should a neighborhood make a plan?
The need to plan for our neighborhoods is a result of people’s passion for their neighborhood. As many of us know, a neighborhood’s identity often becomes an extension of our own identity breeding tremendous loyalty for the area we live in. Likewise, the ability to develop detailed specific plans for our neighborhoods cannot be readily addressed by a broad, citywide policy document such as the Comprehensive Plan. Issues affecting the livability of our neighborhoods such as, land use, housing, traffic, recreation, historic character, capital improvements, public safety, etc. are more easily addressed at a smaller scale through a neighborhood planning process. Undertaking a neighborhood or area plan process is a major step for a community willing to commit during and after the process. Some of the more important reasons that neighborhoods undertake planning efforts include the following:
The process of coming together as a community to define problems, create a vision, and think through solutions is probably more important than the product itself. An organized community that is proactive can initiate positive actions for their neighborhood instead of waiting to respond to something negative. Likewise, various stakeholders comprise a neighborhood from residents, workers, property owners, institutions, businesses, and government. Each interest group represents a partnership opportunity for a community to work with on implementing their plan.
Many concerns we witness in our neighborhoods are a direct result of having no official City policy towards land use, capital improvements, housing, community facilities, transportation, etc. that can guide decision makers to make appropriate decisions specific to your neighborhood. At the very least, the lack of a well-defined policy often results in inaction on a stakeholder’s part.
The scope of a neighborhood plan allows more detailed analysis and recommendations to come forth that are specific to that neighborhood. Likewise, this in-depth view can be typically applied to more issues so that the resulting strategies and actions act together in a coordinated and comprehensive fashion. This includes addressing both short-term (e.g., speeding on local streets, housing rehabilitation) and long-term issues (e.g., declining property values, high unemployment).
Many neighborhood plans will be used to qualify an area for funding of its implementation. The physical document supports fundraising and marketing efforts to attract investment from lending institutions, foundations, private businesses, and local/state/federal governments. These organizations are more likely to help implement recommendations when there is evidence of a community supported plan.
Neighborhood Element of the Comprehensive Plan
Neighborhood Plans – Adopted
- Central Park
- Central Highland Park
- Chesney Park
- East Topeka
- East Topeka North
- Historic Holliday Park
- Historic North Topeka
- Historic North Topeka East
- North Topeka West
- Old Town
- Quinton Heights-Steele
- Tennessee Town
- Valley Park
- Ward Meade
- Washburn-Lane Parkway