OCTOBER 14, 2020 — UTSA’s Urban and Regional Planning Research Center was recognized for helping a small Texas community make big plans for its future. The Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association last week presented the plan – titled “Comfort Vision 2050” – with the Grassroots Initiative Award, one of 15 Planning Achievement Awards for the year 2020.
Directed by Ian Caine, associate professor of architecture and director of the center, the team of professors and students from UTSA worked with local organizers to develop the basic plan. The center is housed within UTSA’s College of Architecture, Construction and Planning.
The Grassroots Initiative Award specifically recognizes an effort “that illustrates how a neighborhood, community group, or other local non-governmental entity has used the planning process to address a specific need or issue within the community.”
“A spirit of collaboration has driven this project, from interactions between local residents to cooperation between UTSA faculty and students.”
“Comfort Vision 2050” was supported by the Comfort Area Foundation and the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Comfort Vision 2050” offers the Hill Country community of Comfort a bottom-up, grassroots approach to city planning that recognizes residents’ recent decision to resist incorporation. In 2015, a majority of Comfort residents (71%) voted against a proposal to incorporate their community, affirming a set of deeply held shared values that would serve as the foundation for “Comfort Vision 2050”.
Since Comfort does not have city officials or professional planners to complete a traditional master plan, “Comfort Vision 2050” instead outlines 75 strategic initiatives that residents, business leaders, nonprofit organizations and county officials can sue immediately and independently, without assistance from the municipal government.
“We hope this new approach will prove useful throughout Texas Hill Country, where 90 percent of communities remain unincorporated,” Caine explained.
To create the vision plan, the UTSA team worked closely with various members of the Comfort community, including residents, the county commissioner and local newspaper editors.
“A spirit of collaboration has driven this project, from interactions between local residents to cooperation between faculty and students at UTSA,” Caine noted.
The UTSA team included William Dupont, professor of architecture; Corey Sparks, associate professor of demography; searcher Bill Barker; and Matthew Jackson and Thomas Tustall from UTSA’s Institute of Economic Development. In addition, research students Elisabeth Striedel, Ivan Ventura and Diego Sanchez made critical contributions to drawings and field documentation.
“The success of this vision plan,” Caine added, “affirms the potential for applied, transdisciplinary research to simultaneously serve local communities, create new knowledge, and advance best practices in our discipline.”