City planning initiative set to begin with community conversations

Dec. 28—Community Action Lab, a 24-month program comprised of in-depth community conversations, leadership training and resource expansion, is set to kick off in January.

The program is coordinated through Strong Towns in partnership with the city of Norman.

The city council, which is planning for the future of zoning and economic development, approved the $145,875 contract in November.

It outlines five project phases designed to "help shift the vital center of dialogue using broad reach, nonpartisan appeal and accessible messaging," according to a news release from the city.

Through a multi-pronged approach, Strong Towns plans to support city staff and elected officials in mobilizing citizenry while offering insights into best practices for building community resilience

As part of the Community Action Lab, residents and local leadership will identify challenges to focus on while Strong Towns reinforces bottom-up efforts to address them.

"It is the city's hope that this proposal and the upcoming work for the Comprehensive Plan and other Master Plans will work in conjunction, creating cohesive plans that all Normanites will benefit from," said Jane Hudson, city planning director.

Staff applied to Strong Towns to be chosen for its Community Action Lab after Ward 8 Councilman Matt Peacock won support for it during the panel's July goal setting retreat.

Peacock has said the timing could not be more important to bring on the organization in the face of much change in Norman.

"Today, we are at an inflection point in Norman's history, with unprecedented levels of opportunity and challenge covering a vast spectrum of community issues," Peacock said last month.

"These topics range from a proposed turnpike route, to the university's move to the SEC, and everything in between such as revamping our own strategic planning and transportation documents."

The upcoming Community Action Lab will include lectures and question and answer sessions with the public, followed by discussion of the release of initial project goals and then educating city leaders and implementation of the goals.

Ongoing support is included in the last phase of the program, according to a recent staff presentation.

Community members will have the opportunity to take part in this initiative in various capacities. Residents are encouraged to learn more and sign up to receive updates on the project at