Each year the American Planning Association (APA), County Planning Division (CPD) and its sister organization, the National Association of County Planners (NACP) gives out County Planning Project Awards.
Comprehensive Plan Small Jurisdiction Category – Award of Excellence: Emporia-Lyon County Joint Comprehensive Plan, Kansas. Plan ELC was developed by The Urban Collaborative.
There are two types of awards, Awards of Excellence and Awards of Merit. In addition, there are seven categories of awards; Planning Project, Comprehensive Plan – Large Jurisdiction, Comprehensive Plan – Small Jurisdiction, Best Practices, Grass Roots Initiative, Small Area/Special Area Planning, and Special Focus Planning Initiative – County Holistic Innovation Project. Only one Award of Excellence and one Award of Merit may be granted per category each year. If the Awards Jury finds that none of the nominations in a particular category meets the desirable standards, they may grant no award in that category for that year.
Lyon County is a primarily rural, agricultural-based county in east-central Kansas with a population of approximately 34,000 residents. The City of Emporia, the county seat and largest city in Lyon County, has a population of approximately 25,000 residents. Prior to the Joint Comprehensive Plan, both Lyon County and the City of Emporia operated as distinct jurisdictions with limited coordination regarding land use, transportation, and overall growth patterns. This scenario is not uncommon in Kansas and the greater Midwest region as many areas include a core city with surrounding residential and rural areas that are economically and socially connected to the core city. In Lyon County, this scenario specifically created planning tension in the areas immediately outside the city limits. Both jurisdictions struggled to determine the best approach to navigating changes to population, the housing market, regional employment opportunities, and overall growth in a manner that was sustainable, efficient, and coordinated. In 2016, Lyon County and the City of Emporia initiated a unique and exciting community-wide effort to create a Joint Comprehensive Plan. The joint initiative reflects the positive relationship between the city and county to work together towards a more vibrant and resilient community. The planning process engaged a diverse cross-section of the community in order to reflect on the strengths of the region and explore future opportunities to address current challenges and emerging trends.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan itself was also structured to align different planning elements into four cohesive themes that were priorities for the community: 1) preserving agricultural landscapes, 2) linking parks to people, 3) connecting communities and 4) supporting infill development.