SCJ planning team helps small towns win big

Wash. Dept. of Commerce’s Benjamin Serr, Twisp Councilmember Mark Easton, Mayor Pro Tem Hans Smith, Mayor Soo Ing-Moody, SCJ Alliance’s Eric Johnston, Councilmember Alan Caswell and Wash. Dept. of Commerce’s David Anderson

Boosting the local economy and getting people where they need to go are no small feats for any community – large or small. But with a smart plan in place, progress can be straightforward.

Rural areas have distinctive needs, and SCJ’s community and transportation planners appreciate them. This small-town expertise leads to successful projects, engaged communities, and even statewide recognition.

Small communities win big awards

Two SCJ clients recently won awards for their plans. The Town of Twisp earned Governor Jay Inslee’s 2018 Smart Communities Award, and the Okanogan Council of Governments (OCOG) took home top honors for outstanding contributions to the planning profession by two industry groups.

“Planning for the Okanogan Region in North Central Washington means working with challenges and advantages you won’t find anywhere else,” said SCJ Principal Eric Johnston. “Two distinct valleys and a mountain range in between means it can be hard to get around, but it’s worth it.” The geography and remoteness take the Okanogan region’s challenges even a few steps beyond those of other rural areas.

Rendering from the award-winning Twisp Economic Revitalization Plan that SCJ created

Increasing economic vitality in Twisp

With its plan being heralded as “pioneering and a model for other jurisdictions to use,” Twisp was recognized for its Economic Revitalization Master Plan, which SCJ created. Judges for the Governor’s Smart Communities Award noted that the plan identifies specific actions town leaders can take, particularly in the downtown core, to increase economic success, while preserving and enhancing the character of the community.

“Twisp has a rich history and a strong spirit,” Eric said. “Today, it’s filled with artists and craftsmen who have adopted the valley as their home. They are crafting a community identity and are ready for significant infrastructure improvements consistent with that identity.”

While presenting the award, David Anderson from the Department of Commerce said, “The plan encourages build out that will make the town livable, not just shoppable. Keep those working in Twisp, living in Twisp. And keep those living in Twisp, working in Twisp.”

During the award presentation Mayor Soo Ing-Moody praised SCJ’s efforts. “It’s been such a great experience, the partnership we’ve had working with you (Eric) and your team,” she said, adding SCJ was a big part of the public engagement and bringing the community together. “We’re really proud to have had SCJ work on this for us,” said the mayor.

SCJ Principal Eric Johnston (in green) lead the public outreach efforts for the plan

Eric led the team that created the plan and secured community support, in part using local gallery-style open houses where people could review and comment on the proposed vision and approach. The award committee said the techniques used to prioritize projects and formalize the plan were innovative and impressive for a smaller community.

Gov. Inslee noted local outreach is his comments. “Outstanding local collaboration is key to creating sustainable communities with a shared vision for their future growth and prosperity,” he said.

Keeping people and products moving throughout the region

SCJ Senior Planner Thera Black (left) and Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody. Thera led the development of the award-winning 2040 Regional Transportation Plan for the Okanogan Region.

That local collaboration also reaches outside Twisp and throughout the region. Together, the state chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) and the Planning Association of Washington (PAW) recognized OCOG this summer for the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan for the Okanogan Region. The development of this regional roadmap was led by SCJ Senior Planner Thera Black.

Mayor Ing-Moody serves as the chair of OCOG, and the award is a testament to the collaborative nature and leadership role Twisp plays in the region. The plan focuses on issues that matter more in rural areas, compared to congested urban locations, and it sets up OCOG for better use of their funding by building on this plan in future years.  The Washington State Department of Transportation has recognized Thera’s work as a model for other rural areas, and she is currently taking a similar approach with Island County.

Helping small communities across the state

SCJ and our clients have been honored before for both the Smart Communities Award and the joint APA/PAW award for outstanding contributions to the planning profession.

Last year, the Twisp Economic Revitalization Master Plan (link opens as download) received honorable mention for the APA/PAW award. In 2013, the Town of Wilkeson earned both awards for its corridor planning efforts, led by SCJ.

Wilkeson is a small western Washington community located in the foothills of Mount Rainier. Its Rural Town Center Corridor Plan was praised by the Governor for its smart growth planning and for contributing to our state’s quality of life. Exceptional public outreach, partnerships with other government agencies (like the National Park Service), and stretching funding dollars to get the biggest bang for the buck, were just some of the attributes praised.

Other APA/PAW awards have been earned by our Spokane team, led by planners Bill Grimes and Rick Hastings, for citizen involvement and small community plans for Ellensburg, Rockford, Sequim, Normandy Park and Mill Creek, among others.

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