The City of Victoria is growing, and with that growth come new challenges. Can our transportation system handle increased traffic (along with pedestrians and cyclists)? How can we protect residents from flooding and improve our access to developable land? Where can residents go to shop and play? How can we revitalize our downtown?
The City has invited residents to help us answer these questions as we develop our master plans for downtown, Parks & Recreation, storm drainage and thoroughfares. We’ve conducted surveys, hosted town halls and more to ensure that the new plans accurately reflect the vision of the people.
This emphasis on public involvement might remind you of the development process for our comprehensive plan, Plan 2035. That plan was adopted in 2016 and included input from hundreds of community members. While Plan 2035 provides a broad vision for the future growth and development of the entire city, the individual master plans will guide the implementation of that vision in more specific ways.
I’ve worked on master plans in other cities, and the lessons I’ve learned have helped me in my role as the coordinator of Victoria’s master planning effort. For instance, I’ve noticed that the more involved a community is in the planning process, the greater the buy-in and the easier it is to implement the plan later.
Early in the development of each plan, we carefully gathered a group of stakeholders—business owners, local leaders and community members—to serve on steering committees in an advisory role. We also found creative ways to involve the public despite the pandemic: We provided surveys and educational materials online, conducted virtual town hall meetings and later hosted in-person meetings with safety measures in place.
Another important component of a master plan is having a good consultant. Before we drafted a single survey, we had to hire the right consultant for each plan, and we’ve been engaged with our consultants throughout the process. One of our consultants even told me he appreciated our level of involvement compared with other local governments.
Involving elected officials is crucial as well. Many cities make the mistake of only bringing a master plan to the City Council when the plan is complete and needs the council’s rubber stamp of approval. We recognize that officials elected by the people should be involved in planning Victoria’s future, which is why we’ve kept the council updated and listened to their feedback at every stage of development.
Once the master plans are adopted later this year, residents will be able to look forward to new park designs based on detailed conceptual renderings, new residential and business development on land that is currently inaccessible due to drainage issues, a vibrant downtown and many other exciting changes. Best of all, these changes will be in line with what our community wants because they will be guided by community-driven master plans.
I’d like to thank all the Victoria residents who have taken surveys, attended meetings and made their voices heard during the development of our master plans. To learn more about each master plan and to provide input, visit www.victoriatx.gov/masterplans.
Mike Etienne, PhD, is an assistant city manager for the City of Victoria.