On March 2nd City Council had it’s regular meeting, one significant item on the agenda is the review and vote to adopt the new Springdale Comprehensive Plan. This Plan was reported as being the result of a year + work and would be the foundation for the next 20 years for the City. In advance of the meeting I had the opportunity to review the draft of the plan and because it is so foundational I had a number of questions.
I believe a Plan is the result of a shared vision made actionable. Actionable can be a lists of tasks or shared goals or even policy statements – guide rails for development in our City.
As is customary City Administration asked that any questions get rolled up through them to get to the project team (led by McBride Dale Clarion). Keep in mind this firm also staffs our City Planner staff position and that this plan creation was an additional contract that exceeds $80,000 just for this deliverable (plus city time and other expenses).
Reading the document I was struck by several key items:
- The plan does not seem to identify or build on unique characteristics of our city (Who we are)
- Claims that the plan is community driven but did not meaningfully engage the Community (Who we are and what we want)
- The Plan focuses on economic output instead of our community’s current state and vision for the future (What makes a community)
- The Plan does not provide market data to allow us to determine what services different community groups likely are looking for when choosing a new place to make their home (What makes a community we want)
- The Plan ignores clear need to enhancing existing businesses and building on our diverse community strengths (What makes a community we want)
Springdale is a vibrant and diverse community that is much more than stats about ‘disposable income level’, ‘workforce participation rate’, and ‘…relevant spatial area recommendations provided in the future land use and character chapter’ – all well highlighted in the 117 page Comprehensive Plan.
Sure Land Use / Zoning Code is important policy documents for planning but the basis should be what our community is today and where we want our community to be 10 years from now.
If we agree on where we are and where we want to go then we can build a plan to get there.
The project team and City Administration declined to address any of these concerns before the vote to adopt the plan. In fact I had submitted questions around these areas in advance of the meeting which the team discussed internally and declined to answer.
Example questions the City Administration decided the community doesn’t get to know include:
- ‘Affordable housing’ data in the Plan is based on single family home prices compared only to higher costing communities and not recognized standards for affordable housing how do all the apartments being planned affect our plans for housing in the community?
- How were the direct mailing for “Economic Vitality” determined? There were 21 responses / how many were sent out and to what businesses?
- With the continued under-representation of men (all races), Black people, and Hispanic people responses in both rounds of surveys can you share what was done to reach out to these groups and what changed from the round 1 surveys to the second?
- Average Household income in Springdale is $54,686 and disposable income $45,418. Where did the disposable income number come from? What does “disposable income” represent here – only 9k of average income is fixed? The plan spends a lot of time describing the need to add more ‘well paying young professionals’ without saying who they are or – more importantly – what types of amenities in a City are desired and how they would enhance the community at large.
- Labor participation in Springdale is 64% with national rates since between 1948 and 2022 in the range of 58.1% to 67.3% the labor participation rate we have is still higher than the most recent 10 year average by a good margin. (based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Where did the goal to raise this come from and why? It seems 64% is strong by historical measures. Is there an approach to improve local job opportunities than just saying more people should work in higher paying jobs?
Quite simply refusing to answer questions, these and others, provided weeks in advance of the deliberation and vote to adopt the plan is simply not acceptable – so between the unanswered questions and the foundation of the plan not rooted in what it claimed to be…
I voted NO on adoption. For ~$100,000 and a year of work we simply deserve better.
If you are interested in reviewing any of the raw data the team collected I consolidated it online here.
Keep in mind:
- Focus groups included in scope were never conducted
- Survey responses were online only (and largely from a single demographic with only 200-250 unique respondents out of 11,000+ resident – so a 2-3% non randomized sample response rate)
- 21 out of 1100+ businesses in Springdale were targeted for survey
- Parks and Rec survey did not disclose underlying direction from City Administration to relocate the existing rec center (minus fields) to the Mall redevelopment – so question about pool ‘renovation’ did not include option to keep or expand outdoor pool as it is targeted for removal
- Survey questions had technical issues during collection corrupting data but that data was still included in the Formal Plan and no mention of errors disclosed, the data below excludes the corrupted data
Parks & Recreation