Comprehensive Plan 2009 to 2019
During participation in one of the focus group forums for the Comprehensive Plan review, it was noted the original plan had been amended multiple times. If a "plan" has been changed so often, then perhaps it was poorly designed or, worse still, it was being ignored by our elected leaders and staff. So we looked into it - how many times had the plan been revised?
Below are spreadsheets summarizing 85 amendments to the Comprehensive Plan. In addition, there have been 665 amendments to the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance). Early on the majority of changes caused little controversy. As time went on, however, conflicts occurred and decisions were made that were in direct opposition to the Future Land Use and Character map and with little public awareness.
The city council and staff serving during the adoption of the 2009 Comprehensive Plan envisioned our city for the next 30 years. That plan was guided by a vision statement developed by the city with input from hundreds of residents. According to that statement, "College Station will remain a vibrant, forward-thinking, knowledge-based community which promotes the highest quality of life for its citizens by [among other things]
Ensuring safe, tranquil, clean, and healthy neighborhoods with enduring character
Supporting well planned, quality and sustainable growth
Valuing and protecting our cultural and historical community resources
It appears to us this vision has been lost over the years. City council and staff changed and so did the philosophy which surrounded the Plan. While neighborhood integrity was a core principal of the 2009 plan, over time there was more focus on and preference for "development", student housing, and urban density at the expense of our parks, schools and existing neighborhoods.
This change in philosophy can be seen in the significant number of amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and the UDO. In 2016 and 2017 there were 36 amendments to the plan, almost as many as in the previous six years combined. These amendments have consequences; the city will be financially and physically paying these costs for years to come. We believe that this change in direction is behind the fact that in the 2019 Citizen Survey a large percent of our community is not happy with "the direction the city is headed."
The good news is that College Station has responded. New council members have been elected and a new city manager has been hired. In 2018, the number of amendments fell to 4, and only 3 have been enacted so far this year.
The city is in the process of reviewing the previous 10 years of the Comprehensive Plan and proposing changes for the next 10 years. We hope it will allow a return to the city's original philosophy, focused on quality of life and respect for neighborhoods. CSAN is monitoring and participating in the review of the plan and we encourage all our supporters and members to do the same. The city's website for the plan, cstx.gov/TheNext10 has updates, meeting announcements, and an opportunity to sign up for emails about the process.
As we have learned, it is critical we stay vigilant, not just this year, but over the long run. No matter how good the plan is, it will only be effective if neighborhoods and neighbors are paying attention at every planning and zoning meeting, every city council meeting and in every election.