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Urban & Regional Planning


Urban and Regional planning refers to the process by which cities, counties, states and other jurisdictions develop a plan for growth and development. Planning processes vary widely across jurisdictions and agencies. Planning process usually include data collection, analysis, visioning, and public engagement. Planning professionals typically engage all relevant stakeholders, including staff, officials and residents to develop a responsible timeline and process for public facilities, development and policies.

Different agencies and jurisdictions have varied plans: comprehensive; master; land use; transportation and otherwise.

In St. Louis, the planning process is carried out by several jurisdiction-specific entities: the City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency, the St. Louis County Planning Department, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments (COG), and other city and county governments.

The City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency was created in 1999 to focus on planning the city's future. The agency is divided into four sections: Planning and Urban Design, Research, Graphics and Computer Mapping, and a Cultural Resources Office. The City Planning Agency has prepared a Five Year Consolidated Plan which outlines a series of short- and long-term goals designed to address areas of need in the city, including housing, economic development, planning and development regulations, health, public facilities and infrastructure, public safety, and the environment.

The St. Louis County Planning Department is divided into five departments that are responsible for a variety of planning and zoning activities, including Countywide and Community Plans, Mapping and Data, Community Development, Zoning and Subdivision, and Neighborhood Services.

East-West Gateway Council of Governments is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the region encompassing Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties in Missouri, the city of St. Louis, and Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair counties in Illinois. The organization is responsible for developing and adopting short- and long-range transportation plans for the region and selecting the projects that will receive federal funds, based on the 20-year Transportation Plan.

Legacy 2035: the Transportation Plan for the Gateway Region will be used to guide the region's transportation investments over the next 20 years. The long range transportation plan is formally updated every three years - Legacy 2030, the most recent update, was adopted in 2005.

A number of short-range plans and corridor studies have also been created to support and expand upon the 20-year plan. The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a specific, three to five-year implementation schedule for federally funded projects in the St. Louis Region. The final TMP for 2011 - 2014 and a draft of the most recent TIP covering the period from 2012 - 2015 are available from the East-West Gateway site.

A number of MetroLink and Major Transportation Investment Analysis (MTIA) corridor studies have also been completed over the past several years. Corridor studies are used to evaluate and advance specific projects and investments. These studies are a vital link between the long range plan and actual project development.

East-West Gateway is also responsible for planning aviation, pedestrian and bicycle, and transit systems. The first draft of the St. Louis Regional Bicycling and Walking Transportation Plan was completed in June of 2005. The plan is the product of several public workshops and open houses that were held to allow public comment. The MPO is also working on the region's first aviation system plan and moving forward on the planning and implementation of light rail lines along several corridors.

Planning Strategies

There are a number of key planning strategies that can help communities make great streets possible.

Ensure great street design is possible. Great street design includes recommendations such as narrower travel lanes (less than 12-feet wide) and the use of medians to help reduce travel speeds and improve safety. However, some communities have adopted street standards that make the implementation of these elements difficult or impossible. At a minimum, street standards need to include the allowance of variances in appropriate areas, such as great street thoroughfares. Ideally, municipalities should consider overlay districts or the adoption of new street standards that not only allow but promote street design consistent with great streets.

Determine candidates for great streets and implement improvements over time. The time frame for making great streets happen may be long but cities can effectively plan for great streets by prioritizing selected thoroughfares as great streets candidates and phasing improvements.

  • Make sure infrastructure improvements, such as a curb and gutter project, are consistent with the long-term vision for the great street cross section.
  • Establish "build-to" lines (eliminate setback requirements), change zoning, and create urban design standards early in the planning stages so that any redevelopment occurs under the new standards.
  • Focus efforts on one section at a time of the candidate great street.

Involve all agencies early in the planning process. For every aspect of great street design, there is a department or agency responsible for it. Therefore, a city hoping to make great streets happen, must include all the relevant stakeholders from the professional community. Environmental impacts, traffic, architectural review, DOT, FHWA when appropriate, public works, public art, access management are just examples of the many entities that can help plan successfully for great streets.

Prioritize public involvement. Community members are the most meaningful advocates of great streets. When citizens are given the opportunity to collaborate meaningfully in the development of a great street plan, not only does it build consensus but it results in a plan that meets the needs of the community-at-large.

Incentivize great streets. Many communities have prioritized desired development patterns by providing incentives. The incentive may target private development or for umbrella agencies, it may target member jurisdictions. Incentives for the private sector may include expedited review processes, tax incentives or complementary public investments. Incentives for jurisdictions may include matching funds or prioritized funding for qualifying projects.

Plan and coordinate improvements with neighboring agencies. Thoroughfares that are good candidates for great street improvements may cross jurisdictions. To avoid piecemeal implementation of great streets, communities should collaborate with neighboring communities and the MPO to ensure sensible planning, design, and implementation.

Create overlay districts. Overlay districts are special zoning districts that may be applied 'on top' or in addition to existing zoning. Overlay districts vary in size and may incorporate a thoroughfare, a commercial center or a neighborhood. The point of overlay districts to make possible a special set of regulations and standards that encourage development whose size, scale, mass, architectural design, among other qualities, respects the existing or desired character of the district. Overlay zoning districts typically supersede or supplement the regulations of the base zoning districts. Local governments can create overlay districts with special standards that not only allow, but encourage planning and design consistent with the recommendations for great streets.