Location: Minnesota, USA
Goal: Encourage community input to help the public and private sector in planning for physical, social and economic development of the community.
Maplewood has grown steadily over the last 60 years to more than 38,000 residents and 27,000 employees. The city is expected to continue to grow to be the second largest in Ramsey County.
With a constantly growing diversity, the planning process for the 2040 Comprehensive Plan sought to include a broad representation of the community. A variety of outreach methods were used in recognition that people have different preferences in how they engage in a planning process. Each phase of the project was specifically developed based on the type of input being sought and the results from previous efforts.
The project focused on creating a plan that would prepare the city for a growing population and diversity. With such a broad project there were many challenges to overcome. The planning committee needed to find a way to guide future growth and development in a way that would tend to the needs of current community members.
By using an interactive map, the planning committee was able to define neighborhoods and land uses while supporting a sense of community identity. The planning committee realized that it was extremely important to ensure that the reason behind public and private sector decisions and investments was supported by the community. By opening up a digital engagement software for the project, they hoped to encourage orderliness and efficiency in city government and provide a means for balancing competing private and public interests in order to create a plan to shape the appearance of the community in a way that would address the hopes of current community members.
The City of Maplewood broke this project down into three specific phases which each engaged the community in different ways.
Phase 1: Understand What is Desired
The first phase of community engagement extended from June to October of 2017. This phase was focused on gathering input from all segments of the community on what people like about the community, what they have concerns about, where there are safety issues, and what the 2040 Comprehensive Plan should consider. The following pages present the specific comments gathered from the Social Pinpoint website. Each of the comments is geographically coded to a location within the community.
Phase 2: Consult and Collaborate
The second phase of community engagement extended from October 2017 to February of 2018. This phase was focused on gathering more specific input and feedback on ideas and concepts, as well as goals, policies and actions on the draft plan. Full chapter drafts of the draft plan, as well as condensed ‘Chapter Highlights’ pages were available for public review on the City of Maplewood Comprehensive Plan 2040 webpage. Additionally, the chapter highlights were used in an online survey to gather feedback from the community on what was missing, as well as what should be prioritized for implementation. An additional Social Pinpoint site was created to gather further community comments on proposed trails and land use changes. A series of open houses held at Carver Elementary School and the Maplewood Community Center were also hosted in coordination with city staff and project consultants. A few meetings, specific to the Lions Park, Beaver Lake, and Vista Hills neighborhoods were also held during this phase of community engagement. Outreach to Assalam Mosque and other community groups provided further input during Phase 2. A final presentation to the Maplewood Business Council occurred on March 22, 2018.
Phase 3: Assemble the Final Plan, Seek Approvals, and Distribute
The third phase of community engagement occurred after ideas were gathered from the community through interactive maps in phases one and two. The City of Maplewood assembled the final plan by using input from community members along with individual boards and commissions to ensure the plan was built around the needs of those who are affected. The critical areas of the plan include housing, economic development, natural resources, historical resources, sustainability, parks trails, transportation, surface water and sanitary sewer. On April 9, 2018, The 2040 Comprehensive Plan was reviewed by City Council and Planning Commission and recommended for approval to distribute to the community.
The following is a list of mediums of engagement that were available to community members during the project:
- Phase 1 Social Pinpoint website - available from June to October 2017
- Phase 2 Social Pinpoint website - available from December 2017 to February 2018
- Booths at community events
- Presentations open to all community members
- Community Business Engagement Breakfast
- Open house engagements
- Neighborhood meetings
- Full drafts on city website
- Online survey
- Maplewood Business Council Presentation
The project attracted Victoria-wide-spread attention and very high engagement levels from a broad audience.
The engagement process helped outline common types of comments and areas of concern. City Council found that community members left mostly positive and thoughtful comments.
Types of comments are shown below:
The City of Maplewood was elated with the amount of responses with the project. They received over 200 comments and found that approximately 800 users spent an average of 18 minutes reviewing the site. These insightful comments were used to shape the proposed goals, policies, and actions which were then reviewed in phase two. Phase two allowed community members to share and discuss their thoughts on the proposed changes. During Phase three, The Comprehensive Plan was reviewed and released to the public. The interactive map was closed for comment, but was kept open as a way to share the plan with the community.
Implementing Social Pinpoint
- Using Social Pinpont map layers, City Council was able to define separate neighborhoods and specify housing and commerce areas to make the map easy for community members to navigate
- Multiple project phases used different interactive maps to gather input, propose ideas, and create discussion
- Information Markers were placed in various areas on the map to show proposed ideas
- Surveys were embedded on the sidebar
Where community engagement is essential, interactive mapping is a very effective tool to encourage community members to engage. Social Pinpoint makes this an easy process by providing tools to enable planners to encourage stakeholders and community members to engage. When community members feel like their opinion matters, they are more likely to engage and provide insightful input.