Community character is a term often used to describe the quality of place yet is rarely defined or actually understood. This is the subject ofCommunity Character: Principles for Design and Planning (Island Press, 2010) published by Lane Kendig with Bret C. Keast, AICP. The book clearly defines a continuum of character classes and types and the range of measures used to define them.
Taking a much more comprehensive view, this book offers “community character” as a real-world framework that reflects the complexity of the interaction of the built environment with its social and economic uses. An upcoming companion book, A Practical Guide to Planning with Community Character, will provide a detailed explanation of how to apply community character in a comprehensive plan, with chapters on designing urban, sub-urban, and rural character types. and strategies for addressing characteristic challenges of planning and zoning in the 21st century.
The firm has initiated work on a project in Barbados, a prosperous island nation and important tourist destination in the eastern Caribbean region. KKC Principal Mac Birch has partnered with Paul Zucker, FAICP, to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation’s planning approval processes, GIS and information technology support, and long-range planning activities. The broader intent of this project, which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, is to enhance Barbados’ competitiveness in world markets through the strengthening of the Island’s planning organization.
Barbados’ Town and Country Planning Office hired the team to offer recommendations for streamlining the permitting and approval of land development projects. This consulting engagement is similar to work completed by the team in the Cayman Islands and in many cities and counties throughout the United States.
At a community workshop in Florence, South Carolina, LEGO building blocks served as a vehicle for group discussion. KKC’s Greg Flisram, AICP, and Liz Austin, AICP, encouraged residents to redevelop Downtown - one “block” at a time. The color and configuration of LEGOs represented land use types, building stories, density, and relationship of the building to the street.
Participants had fun introducing new concepts to Florence, including parking garages, mixed-use buildings, and a boutique hotel. The results from the community-wide planning forum, as well as numerous interviews with local business leaders and real estate professionals, informed recommendations and implementation strategies for the Downtown Master Plan Update. This report tied into the Comprehensive Plan and complements the City’s Zoning Ordinance, two ongoing efforts of KKC.
KKC is working on its 11th project in the Clear Lake Area of Houston. Nassau Bay, Texas, is a 4,000-resident, waterfront community with a history of planning from its conception, which coincided with the opening of NASA facilities nearby in the early 1960s. With access to Galveston Bay, Nassau Bay is sustaining growth and renewal and looking beyond Hurricane Ike with the development of a new mixed-use Town Square. The updated comprehensive plan, which KKC is facilitating, will aid the City in prioritizing and implementing key land use, infrastructure, and beautification initiatives. KKC personnel are completing the plan update process in conjunction with the City Council, Planning & Zoning Commission, and key staff. KKC principals have completed previous planning and/or development code work for the cities of Alvin, Baytown, Dickinson, El Lago, Hitchcock, Kemah, La Porte, League City, Seabrook, and Webster.
KKC is proud of its new custom-designed space. This is the base of operations for firm President Bret C. Keast, AICP; Vice President Gary Mitchell, AICP; Senior Associate Sabine Somers-Kuenzel, AICP; Associate Planner-Urban Designer Liz Austin, AICP; and Associate Planner Susan Watkins, along with other support staff. The new office is located near Sugar Land Town Square, which is one of the premier mixed-use destinations in Texas. This provides the firm convenient access to both its nationwide and Texas client base. Additionally, KKC recently established an office in Elk Grove, CA, in the Sacramento area, to supplement its established western U.S. presence in Denver.
Sabine Somers-Kuenzel, AICP, recently transitioned into consulting, joining KKC in May after a 21-year career in public sector planning positions. Most recently she was Planning Director for Sugar Land, TX, following earlier work in College Station, TX, and Midland, MI. Her work at the municipalities included comprehensive plan updates, zoning and subdivision regulations changes, city and municipal utility district annexations, annexation strategies, complex development cases, development agreements, and policies on master plans and demographics. Sabine led interdepartmental teams in the development review process to ensure not only that development would benefit the cities she represented but also that applicants received the highest level of customer service. Sabine is involved with development code projects in Florence, SC, and Williams, CA, plus a comprehensive plan and corridor plan for Valparaiso, IN.
Susan Watkins also joined the firm in June after completing her Master’s of Urban Planning degree at Texas A&M University. She is engaged in KKC projects for the Texas cities of Amarillo, Pearland, and Nassau Bay, and for Williams, CA.
KKC staff members have prepared more than 25 award-winning projects. The firm has recently received recognition for the following projects:
Land Development Code
Outstanding Planning Project, Merit Award, 2010 APA Colorado Chapter
Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan, 2010 APA
Unified Development Code
Outstanding Planning Project,
Honorable Mention, 2010 APA Indiana Chapter
Since 1994, KKC has deployed ZoningPlusTM, an Internet-based editing, content management, and publishing system for zoning ordinances and other large documents for over 20 client jurisdictions. Recent computerization projects include:
ZoningPlusTM applications are currently being developed for Durango, CO; McAllen, TX; and Abu Dhabi.
*ZoningPlusTM serves as a user-friendly interface for Kansas City's existing KIVA land use and development permitting system. Ongoing Projects City of Amarillo, Texas
Comprehensive Plan and Consolidated Plan City of Durango, Colorado
Land Development Code City of Williams, California
Environmental Impact Report
Zoning Ordinance Houston-Galveston Area Council
Access Management Website Development Barbados
Institutional Strengthening Study for the Town and Country Development
City of Florence,
Downtown Master Plan
City of Killeen, Texas
Downtown Plan City of Fremont, Nebraska
Parks and Rec. Master Plan
City of McAllen, Texas
Unified Development Code City of Zachary, Louisiana
Code Implementation and Training
City of Nassau Bay, Texas
City of Valparaiso, Indiana
U.S. 30 Corridor Plan City of Pearland, Texas
Park Master Plan Update
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