City of Stillwater to receive new comprehensive plan

Sep. 15—Jacquelyn Porter, city planner, introduced the idea of entering a professional service agreement with Freese and Nichols in order to provide the services of preparing a new Stillwater comprehensive plan and an audit of the city's land development code at the City council meeting on Monday.

Dawn Warrick, a Freese and Nichols project manager, presented the new Stillwater comprehensive plan process at the meeting.

Freese and Nichols is a national, privately-owned engineering, planning and consulting firm that works with its clients to plan and design infrastructure projects.

Stillwater has not had a comprehensive plan since April 2013, and the community has changed in many ways since then.

"Comprehensive plans help project the desire of the community in various areas ranging from transportation to future land use maps," Porter said. "The City of Stillwater has come a long way in 10 years. The desire and the needs of the community have changed."

In order to decide what firm might be the best fit, firms sent in an request for quotation to the City of Stillwater. Six firms submitted the RFQ, four were selected for interviews and out of those four, Freese and Nichols was chosen.

"Freese and Nichols demonstrated an outstanding grasp at the unique challenges faced by college towns, the ability to support and teach Stillwater staff and showed a clear understanding of the revenue issues that the cities in Oklahoma face with being primarily sales tax," Porter said.

Porter said the professional service agreement with Freese and Nichols has a timeline of about 18 months to provide the comprehensive plan and an audit of the land development code. The amount will not exceed $300,000.

For Stillwater's comprehensive plan, there will be a group of planning experts that take charge of the project. Warrick will take the lead as project manager, but the team will also include Chance Sparks, quality control; Paul Green, client representative; Wendy Shabay Bonneau, principal in charge; and experts in other areas.

The comprehensive plan will also include multiple teams that will represent Stillwater. These teams will be City staff, a steering committee, planning commission and City council.

Some of the main focal points of the plan will be comprehensive planning and downtown, small area and campus planning, urban housing and economic development, transportation planning and community engagement.

"The long-range plan for a community or the comprehensive plan, its about the future," Warrick said. " It's not about what we need immediately, it's about what we anticipate needing in the coming decades and what we want to see as the vision of the community in the future."

The comprehensive plan includes a community vision for 2045. In this vision, the Freese and Nichols team will focus on future land use, arts and culture, resiliency, economic development and redevelopment, transportation and mobility, infrastructure and public services and implementation.

Warrick said one of the most important aspects of the comprehensive plan is public engagement. The Freese and Nichols team stresses meetings based on community events, and they will update their website to include needed information and surveys for community members.

"The effort here is all about building consensus," Warrick said. "At the end of the day, we have a series of action steps and policies that the community agrees with and that can help give you and your staff the political support (and) the community support to move forward with new action items that implement the plan."

Freese and Nichols has a lot of experience working in college towns. The team will focus on determining what aspects need growth and stability, especially when discussing housing.

"What's important is that each (college) is unique," Warrick said. "We know that some of the issues and some of the concerns that happen in college towns are pretty common throughout, so we'll also be able to apply our knowledge in that regard."

The comprehensive plan is divided into four phases: background and engagement, plan development, implementation recommendations and code diagnostic. Once the plan is adopted, cities can follow the strategic plan, the regulations and other programs in order to carry the comprehensive plan and each of its visions forward.