Envision Utah's Process

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In 1997, Envision Utah began an unprecedented conversation about growth in Utah. The Envision Utah process represents a groundbreaking way for residents to participate in the establishment of a shared vision. The premise of the Envision Utah process is that the public has the right to decide the future, and the entire process is designed to allow the public to choose the path forward. Since Envision Utah’s initial visioning effort in the 1990s, communities across Utah have invited Envision Utah to facilitate conversations where citizens can voice their hopes and dreams for their community’s future. Envision Utah serves as a neutral facilitator. A diverse group of residents oversees the process to ensure it is transparent and represents the values of citizens.

Envision Utah uses interviews, mapping exercises, surveys and other means to hear from residents and uses that information to present different community scenarios based on the information gathered. Residents react to the scenarios and choose the future that best matches their vision. Based on public input, Envision Utah's voluntary recommendations for achieving that vision respect private property rights and are grounded in the realities of the local market. Local elected officials, along with residents, have the opportunity to implement the public’s vision as they best see fit. 

Any Envision Utah visioning process is overseen by a group of local stakeholders. This diverse group typically includes public officials from local jurisdictions, development professionals, conservationists, media, and community leaders, among others.  The stakeholder group will be witnesses to the process – ensuring that all steps are done in a transparent manner based on sound public input.  They will also help ensure that the process represents local values, tests ideas that have some pragmatic grounding, and is communicated in a way that makes sense to residents.

Setting the Stage

 

1. Stakeholder Involvement

Prior to the official start of the process, staff inform jurisdictions of the anticipated process and seek feedback from local officials.  Staff also seek commitments to participate in good faith in the effort.  A steering committee will be created representing public officials from local jurisdictions, development professionals, conservationists, media, and community leaders, among others.  The steering committee will be witnesses to the process – ensuring that all steps are done in a transparent manner based on sound public input.  They will also help ensure that the process represents local values, tests ideas that have some pragmatic grounding, and is communicated in a way that makes sense to residents.

2. Scoping

Based on the interviews and briefings from task 1, a review of past planning efforts, and input from the steering committee, additional detail will be added to the scope of work.  This task includes selecting consultants, if necessary, and defining roles and responsibilities.

3. Values Analysis

This task involves an in-depth analysis of what residents value about living in the area.  Care is taken to ensure equal demographic representation.  This task is important because it helps elected officials and planners understand how growth, transportation and environmental issues can be solved to respond to residents most fundamental values about quality of life.  This analysis also helps local leaders communicate the benefits of growth planning more effectively with residents.

4. Coordinate with Jurisdictions

The most effective way to ensure a substantial turnout in a process is to have local jurisdictions personally invite residents, such as through an invitation signed by the mayor.  This task coordinates each of the jurisdictions’ efforts to invite residents.

5. Establish “Baseline” Scenario

This baseline analysis provides a picture of the area’s projected fate if current development trends continue.  This acts as the control – helping us to understand the relative advantages and disadvantages of each alternative scenario.  The baseline analysis may include: projection of land development, anticipated housing characteristics, air quality, traffic congestion and water consumption.  The baseline analysis may also include an estimate of the market demand for various housing types into the future.  

6. Public Relations Campaign for Launch     

This task entails development of a campaign to inform resident of the consequences of the baseline scenario and a call to get involved in the process.  Letters, newspaper and radio advertisements, media coverage, public events, etc., are used to educate the public about pertinent issues and possible consequences.  Educating residents is critical for informed public participation in the process.

 

Public Workshops

1. Public Workshops

During the public workshops, attendees learn of the area’s projected future (the Baseline Scenario) and its attendant impacts on transportation, air quality, infrastructure, etc.  An educational presentation provides background information on issues to consider.  Keypad polling—an interactive wireless survey technology—and  on-line polling may be used to gather public input.

Workshop attendees may also engage in a mapping exercise.  Through this exercise, groups of approximately ten interested citizens, appointed officials, business owners, and land owners brainstorm their preferred future for the area.  Each group uses a map with an air-photo color-coded with information about the area, such as developed land, land uses (commercial, residential, industrial, parks and open space), extent of sensitive lands (e.g., hillsides, floodplains, areas of significant plant life), and key landmarks.  On this map, each group negotiates among themselves areas to delineate for growth and for conservation, and they will represent the form they would like growth to take, using chips that represent different types of housing, commercial and mixed-use forms of development, etc.  Each table aims to have a microcosm of all the parties interested in the long-term success of the area.  Having participants who represent diverse opinions come together to brainstorm a long-term future tends to produce pragmatic yet often innovative solutions.

2. Summarize and Disseminate Results

The workshop mapping results are entered into a GIS system.  This enables staff to develop scenarios in a transparent fashion, demonstrating how public responses were incorporated into scenario concepts.  This task also involves disseminating through a newsletter the key public ideas gleaned from workshop results.  The keypad polling results also shape the development of draft guiding principles as well as give a sense of residents’ values towards growth issues.

Scenarios

 

1. Scenario Development

This task involves the development of scenario maps that project a variety of ideas of how private development, transportation investments and environmental conservation might occur in the future.  This task involves a number of opportunities to refine the scenarios using feedback from local planners and the steering committee.  Future quality of life is projected for each scenario, such as what will air quality be like?, how much traffic congestion?, how extensive will development be?, or what is the mix of housing that is pictured?  These quality-of-life benchmark criteria help residents understand the consequences of the land-use and transportation strategies embodied in each scenario.  This approach also allows the public to compare various quality-of-life measures among all scenarios, including the baseline scenario.

2. Evaluation of Scenarios

After alternative scenarios are developed and tested, community meetings are scheduled.  Here, the scenarios are evaluated by residents and results are made know to the general community.  The community meetings are opportunities to learn which elements within each scenario have the most public support.  On-line surveys are another avenue for the public to evaluate the scenarios.