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Two small Texas communities are shaping their futures with help from Texas A&M’s Texas Target Communities program, which aids municipalities that lack urban planning resources available to larger cities.
During the 2014-15 academic year, second-year Master of Urban Planning students have been meeting with TTC clients in Dickinson, 30 miles southeast of Houston, and Nolanville, 18 miles west of Temple, to determine land use and transportation plans and goals and objectives for inclusion in comprehensive plans for each community. Comprehensive plans are documents that detail a community’s vision for its future and a guide to achieving that vision.
In Dickinson, task force members were interested in diversifying and enhancing their city’s economic activity, retaining their communities’ small-town feel and attracting young people to live and work in their city.
Students crafted proposals for Dickinson that included a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly addition to a mixed residential and commercial area on the city’s west side, an educational nature center, an office park just south of downtown and a convention center on the city’s bayou.
In Nolanville, a rapidly growing community on U.S. Highway 190, students proposed a downtown revitalization effort and a citywide hike and bike trail system in an effort to preserve a small town feel and foster active lifestyles among community members.
Students also recommended revisions to existing land use policies because task force members want to redirect the city’s commercial development, most of which is taking place on the outskirts of the city.
Students also formed their plans based on reports previously compiled by graduate students that included the communities’ histories and data regarding their demographic information, housing conditions, transportation, infrastructure and economy.
Graduate students are continuing their planning efforts in the spring 2015 semester.
Students in a transportation class are traveling to Dickinson and Nolanville, meeting with task force members in each community to identify transportation issues and develop solutions.
Also, in a planning implementation class, students are developing steps, including timelines and identifying funding sources, to help the plans come to fruition.
The effort is being led by several faculty members, including Shannon Van Zandt, associate professor of urban planning and director of the Master of Urban Planning program, John Cooper, associate urban planning professor of the practice and TTC director, Ken Joh, assistant professor of urban planning, Kim Mickelson, visiting associate professor of urban planning and Jaimie Hicks Masterson, TTC program coordinator.
Since its inception more than a quarter-century ago, TTC has provided technical assistance to more than 42 small, lower-resourced communities across the state.
Communities may apply for the program on the TTC website.