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The Daily Tar Heel

Town of Carrboro wins Marvin Collins Award for comprehensive small town planning

The NCBOE ordered the Town of Carrboro to take down their Black Lives Matter flags on the town hall building. The town says they're staying.

The American Planning Association-North Carolina Chapter awarded the Marvin Collins Award to the Town of Carrboro at the 2022 North Carolina Planning Conference from Sept. 13 to 16.

The Marvin Collins Award recognizes individuals or organizations that have completed outstanding planning programs or made notable contributions to the planning profession. Carrboro was awarded for its comprehensive plan in a town with a population of less than 25,000. 

“Part of the reason the awards are given by the North Carolina chapter is because of the opportunity or the possibility that the approach that was used here might be beneficial in another community,” Trish McGuire, the Town of Carrboro’s planning director, said.

The Town won the award for its Carrboro Connects 2022-2042 Comprehensive Plan, which focuses on racial equity and climate action.

The plan's goals include supporting local businesses, expanding affordable housing options and increasing access to open spaces like parks and outdoor facilities. It includes short-term and long-term initiatives that plan twenty years into the future. 

The Carrboro Town Council voted unanimously in favor of its adoption in June 2022. 

McGuire said Carrboro Connects was given the green light in early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was issued by Gov. Roy Cooper.

According to the plan, Carrboro Connects was drafted with consideration to current political issues such as the global health crisis, social unrest about racial inequity and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Carrboro's focus on race and equity has been in development for years, furthered since joining the Government Alliance for Race and Equity(GARE) in 2018, McGuire said. GARE principles were incorporated into each part of the One Orange Racial Equity Framework, which Carrboro adopted in February. 

Carrboro’s involvement in climate action has also been part of the Town’s comprehensive goals for years. Carrboro Connects incorporates the major goals of the Community Climate Action Plan and the Energy and Climate Protection Plan, which was drafted by the Town years earlier and amended in 2020.

Carrboro Connects also includes other major principles such as transportation and mobility, green stormwater infrastructure, economic stability, parks and recreation accessibility, land use and public service development. 

Part of the criteria of the Marvin Collins Awards includes looking for transferability and applicability to other communities, as well as originality, Bynum Walter, a co-chair of the APA-NC awards committee, said. Carrboro Connects was particularly effective in its community outreach efforts, she added.

“We had an unprecedented amount of community engagement and development,” Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils said regarding the plan. 

The Carrboro Connects team engaged with more than 1,600 individuals. The plan also recognizes over 4,000 touchpoints – instances of engagement within the community. 

Seils said it goes a step further than Vision 2020 by setting goals for how to achieve the topics included in the policy document. Vision 2020 was Carrboro's policy-making guide before Carrboro Connects which began in 2000. 

“It's really a lot more of a traditional comprehensive plan that it sets out not just a vision for the future," Seils said. "But also goals and strategies for how to get there."

Walter said the Town started the project in the beginning of 2020, which she emphasized was a tough time. 

“Especially when you consider the level of engagement they were able to accomplish during the pandemic — definitely admirable," she said. 

@DTHCityState | 

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