This will be a multi-year community engagement process with multiple opportunities to get involved and have your voice heard throughout each step of the process
Like so many other things in our lives, work on the Comprehensive Plan and the Transit Plan has been impacted and slowed by COVID-19. We recognize that this work towards a more equitable Durham is even more essential now, as COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted our low–wealth residents and residents of color. We also know that this is a challenging time to equitably engage our community because the pandemic is impacting residents differently.
The process and timeline below is subject to change, but we will update it frequently. Equitable Engagement is the foundation of developing Durham’s new Comprehensive Plan and we are trying out new strategies.
Listening & Learning (November 2019– February 2020)
The first phase of community engagement for the new Comprehensive Plan and the new Transit Plan happened between November 2019 and February 2020. We asked residents during large in-person sessions, small group discussions led by Engagement Ambassadors, and in an online survey, “What does an ideal Durham look like to you?” and “What else is on your mind about Durham?” These two questions were designed to encourage a two-way dialogue between residents and staff, reaching beyond a strategy of simply having staff gather information from the community in a one-way dialogue. We also wanted to ensure residents had opportunities to share their concerns, ideas, and questions about Durham, even if outside of the scope of these two specific plans.
Community Goals (July 2020– March 2021)
We started the process of writing a new comprehensive plan by first getting your feedback on what Durham’s future goals should be. These goals guide how the plan is written as well as decisions regarding new proposed development for zoning change and annexation applications.
- Writing process for Community Goals and Objectives
- Draft Goals and Objectives Engagement Input
- Draft Goals and Objectives Engagement Summary
Creating the Plan
Place Type Guide, Place Type Map, & Policies
(Summer 2021–Fall 2022)
The Community Goals and Objectives outline the vision of the Durham toward which we want to plan. The Place Type Guide and the Place Type Map are all about grounding that vision in the actual places of Durham.
Place Type Guide
The Place Type Guide is a list of all the types of places the community would like to see in the future, including a description of how each place will look and function for all of Durham City and County. The Place Type Guide will replace the Future Land Use Map categories from the previous Comprehensive Plan. The guide may also include information about desired features of each place type, such as land uses; development patterns; building heights and placements; more detailed uses allowed; parking location; infrastructure, like transportation and sewer service; and desired green space.
The Place Type Guide is to be used by planners, developers, City and County officials, and residents to understand the future desired physical characteristics and uses of land. The purpose of the guide is to provide detailed information and guidance to inform how development should look for certain place types as the community grows. The Place Type Guide will be used along with the Place Type Map to guide growth and development for all areas in Durham.
Place Type Map
We are working to replace our current future land use map with a Place Type Map that will designate every property in Durham with a Place Type. The Place Type Map will serve as a geographic depiction of how the community has said it wants to look over the next several decades. For example, the map will show where the community wants houses, stores, businesses, or schools to develop, or where to protect farmland and green space.
The Place Type Map is not legally binding and does not change a property owner’s rights under the existing zoning. Where the Zoning Map is legally binding and shows what is allowed to be built on a property today, the Place Type Map is a guide for future decision-making. Local government staff use it to evaluate requests for new development; to inform decisions about infrastructure investments like extending water and sewer or adding new roads, sidewalks, or bus routes; and to guide how departments and agencies plan their facilities and programs to serve Durham residents.
Policies in the Comprehensive Plan are the words that accompany the Place Type map. These policies will work towards implementation of the Community Goals and Objectives, identifying tools and strategies to work towards the outcomes residents want to see in Durham’s future. This work will include policies that apply across the County and also policies tied to a specific place type (see the Place Type Guide description above).
Policies developed for and adopted in the Comprehensive Plan will be used in two primary ways:
- To review new development proposals brought before the Planning Commission, the City Council, and the Board of County Commissioners for review and approval; and
- To develop and inform departmental work programs, particularly the Planning Department’s work program.
New Development Proposals
Similar to the Place Type Map (described above), in this application, policies guide future decision-making. Planning and other City and County departmental staff review proposals for new development through rezoning requests and annexations against policies in the Comprehensive Plan for compliance. Staff use this assessment to communicate priorities and expectations to developers or applicants proposing new development, and to provide a staff report for consideration by the Planning Commission and either the City Council or the Board of County Commissioners in their decision-making on the proposal.
Departmental Work Programs
Policies will also inform departmental work programs. Work programs identify and prioritize activities and assignments to be carried out by individuals within a city or county department. For departments outside of Planning, this could include decisions about planning infrastructure investments like extending water and sewer or adding new roads, sidewalks, or bus routes as well as information about how departments and agencies plan their facilities and programs to serve Durham residents.
For the Planning Department, the policies inform the departmental work program in several ways. These primarily include proposing changes to the requirements for development in “by-right” applications, meaning they are allowable or permissible by law, through amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), a legally binding document which sets the rules and regulations for zoning and development. It also includes amending departmental processes and procedures for working with residents and applicants, and identifying areas of the community where further studies are needed to provide a detailed vision for how development may occur in that area.
Two focus areas have been identified for our Comprehensive Plan work. The Southeast Durham Focus Area was selected based on requests from the Planning Commission and the City Council for near-term recommendations and guidance for how development should occur in this rapidly developing area. The Bragtown Focus Area was selected in response to needs and requests coming from the Bragtown Community Association in light of increased development interest in their neighborhood and of Planning staff’s commitment to equitable engagement and equitable outcomes in this plan.
Both of these focus areas represent the two main development challenges Durham currently faces: sprawling greenfield development (illustrated in the Southeast Durham Focus Area) and gentrifying infill development in disinvested neighborhoods (shown in the Bragtown Focus Area).
Bragtown Focus Area
Planning processes in Durham have often ignored, marginalized, or actively harmed historically Black communities like Bragtown by primarily focusing on the needs and desires of those with power and privilege. The Bragtown community has faced a legacy of disinvestment from the City and County throughout Durham’s history, and more recently, new development pressures threaten to displace lifelong Bragtown residents. In line with the Comprehensive Plan’s focus on equity, Planning Staff is dedicating a portion of the Comprehensive Plan to working with Bragtown residents to ensure that the Bragtown community has a meaningful role in the development of the Comprehensive Plan, to intentionally engage Bragtown residents in this project, and to identify and implement ways the Comprehensive Plan can further the needs and priorities of Bragtown. A short list of these priorities and needs, as identified by the Bragtown community, include:
- “Housing that is affordable for Bragtown residents”
- “Development that does not displace current residents”
- “Green spaces and safe pedestrian walkways that connect Bragtown residents to destinations like parks, grocery stores, libraries, and more”
- “Preserving areas for wildlife and plants, with a focus on environmental justice for Bragtown
- “Involving the community in each step of the process and especially supporting Bragtown community recommendations that align with Durham’s racial equity priorities”
- “Honoring and preserving the legacy of Bragtown”
Specifically, Planning Staff and the Bragtown Community Association are working together to ensure that Bragtown residents have an active role, with intentional support from Planning Staff, to shape a Place Type Guide, a Place Type Map, and a Policies section within the Comprehensive Plan that further the goals of the Bragtown community. The existing development patterns within Bragtown are fairly representative of the rest of Durham. So, where appropriate, these recommendations, guidelines, and policies may be applied to other communities in Durham facing similar challenges. To begin this work together, Planning staff and the Bragtown community have developed a list of Shared Values and Agreements. This work will be ongoing for the duration of the Comprehensive Plan project.
Southeast Durham Focus Area
On September 24, 2020, at the Durham City Council work session, staff from Planning, Transportation, and Water Management departments gave a presentation on development activity and infrastructure constraints in the southeastern part of Durham County, bounded roughly by US 70, Sherron Road, NC 98, and the County line. Due to a high volume of rezoning and annexation requests in this area, and the need for immediate land use guidance, Durham City Council asked the Planning Department to focus on this area of Durham first, so that it could provide interim guidance even before the full Comprehensive Plan is adopted.
The purpose of the focus area is to:
- Apply the plan’s goals and objectives to a specific area;
- Understand what residents see as existing needs and priorities for the area;
- Understand which land uses features (e.g., types of housing, locations of new stores, environmental protections) residents want to see; and
- Recommend new future land uses, or place types, to inform zoning and annexation requests
The place types and policies developed from this work will remain in draft form, and staff can begin to use this guidance immediately to inform decisions about rezoning and annexation requests in this area. In using the interim recommendations, staff may discover that further refinements are needed or that certain issues should be worked out or improved for the larger Comprehensive Plan. The Southeast Durham Focus Area work will be presented to Planning Commission, City Council, and Board of County Commissioners in fall of 2021. The recommendations drawn from this work will be in draft form, but Planning staff will use this information as early guidance for development proposals in the near term. After the initial recommendations, a more detailed look at this area will happen with the rest of the Plan.
In early March, we began seeking input from residents in a broad online engagement opportunity. The online engagement site, Social Pinpoint, has more information for residents to learn about the focus area, and allowed residents to add comments to an interactive map and to take a survey.
As part of the equitable engagement strategy, Planning staff planned focused interviews in English and Spanish for June 2021. Draft recommendations are anticipated in July, with presentations on the final recommendations presented to the Planning Commission, the City Council, and the Board of Commissioners in September.
Getting Ready to Implement the Plan
Community Goals and Objectives Report Card, Implementation List, & Final Plan Draft (Spring 2022– Fall 2022)
As work on the Comprehensive Plan eventually comes to a close, staff will prepare for plan implementation by developing measures for tracking implementation, implementation strategies, and an approach for the final document and its adoption.
Community Goals and Objectives Report Card
The Community Goals and Objectives Report Card seeks to measure how we are doing in reaching our Community Goals, Objectives, and Guiding Values.
The report card will ensure government transparency and accountability in assessing progress toward the community’s vision after the plan has been adopted. Equity measures are broader descriptions of things that we think are important to track, and are directly related to the Goals and Objectives. These measures will help us understand how changes in each data point are impacting people of different races, ethnicities, ages, incomes, and language groups across Durham. For each equity measure, there will be a series of specific and measurable data points that we can track over time. Examples of data points include: tree canopy coverage, resident engagement satisfaction, and proximity to resources, associated with each of the equity measures to evaluate how the community is doing over time. A template for the report card will be workshopped with the Outreach Team, the Staff Technical Team, Policy Working Groups, the Bragtown Focus Area Group, and the Planning Commission, and shared with the Durham community as a whole to ensure they are meaningful, achievable, and prioritized in a way to best measure progress towards our community vision.
Equity Measure: Environmental justice for all communities in Durham
- Environmental justice data points: amount of tree canopy coverage in Durham at a given time; number of brownfield sites remediated; amount of impervious surface
The Community Goals and Objectives Report Card will help the community and elected officials understand how effective we have been at addressing Durham’s Community Goals and Objectives. This section of the Comprehensive Plan will also set forth a process for who, how, and when the Community Goals and Objectives Report Card will be routinely developed and reported out to the Durham community. The report card will help planning staff, elected officials, and residents evaluate how the Comprehensive Plan is meeting the Community Goals and Objectives, including the Guiding Values, for years following the plan’s adoption.
Adoption and Implementation
To work toward the vision outlined in the new Comprehensive Plan, we need strategies to make the goals, objectives, place types, and policies a reality.
After the adoption of the Community Goals and Objectives for the new Comprehensive Plan, staff may identify near-term implementation strategies, as resources allow. Examples could include:
- Changes to Planning Department work policies and procedures (e.g.., communication and engagement around proposed development)
- Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) updates, with clear support of the Community Goals and Objectives
- As the adoption process for the full plan begins in late 2022, staff will start work to determine implementation strategies for the new plan. This work will again be based in the Goals and Objectives and will primarily focus on implementing policies in the new plan. We expect implementation of the new Comprehensive Plan to begin immediately following its adoption. Examples of post-plan implementation could include:
- Revisions to the UDO to implement policies, including the creation of new zoning districts
- Selective rezoning to better match place types
- Changes to City and County policies and procedures (e.g., Capital Improvement Plan scoring process)
- Continued long-range planning through potential further studies