Future Fort Smith Comprehensive Plan a ‘constant sales job’ for implementation committee

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 243 views 

The Future Fort Smith comprehensive plan is “a constant sales job,” according to Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee member John Cooley.

The sales job is already in motion, Cooley noted Tuesday (Oct. 11) during a Fort Smith Board of Director’s study session, but it will be more of a “marathon than a sprint” as the CPIC works to improve coordination between city government and non-profit/private sector stakeholders. At Tuesday’s session, Cooley and the committee rolled out suggestions for how to better educate the public on the implementation’s progress.

The comprehensive plan was adopted by the Fort Smith Board in late 2014 and cost the city more than $340,000 to develop. It’s broad intent was to guide future city development – from simple landscape rules to larger zoning preferences.

One suggestion that seemed to connect with the Board was to provide appropriate signage to “connect” a completed project to the citizen-led comprehensive plan that was passed in December 2014 and continues to develop through efforts such as the current downtown redesign project underway from Gateway Planning.

The committee also recommends coordinating social media efforts to better communicate the “story” of what is being done to make the long-term plan a reality.

“Social media is very important. It’s how people communicate, but it’s not just social media we’ll need,” said committee member Kelsey Kelton, adding the effort needed to be coordinated through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and – to appeal more to millennials – SnapChat “if we want to go all out.”

Efforts would also need to be coordinated with the city’s website, which would do its part in communicating how each project meets the criteria of the Comprehensive Plan in some way.

According to a May study from Pew Research Center, 62% of U.S. adults get their news through social media. In 2012, the amount was 49%.

“We’ve got to hit all avenues. We can’t afford not to be there,” Cooley added. “It will help increase our ‘cool’ factor, and that’s something to consider because we want people to stay after college, and this document (Comprehensive Plan) has the potential to be a real watershed document for us. We can’t start with the assumptions of the past. It is a sales job, and we have to convince people.”

A third tool the CPIC discussed at Tuesday’s study session was an “implementation matrix” to provide a detailed overview of Plan-related objectives and action items as well as a list of metrics, timeframes, and departments/groups/organizations responsible for implementation. One goal behind the matrix is to give city departments a guide prior to their annual budgeting processes for how to work the comprehensive plan into their annual responsibilities.

An example provided at the study session of how the matrix would work:
• Future Land Use Objective: Revitalize downtown into a multipurpose activity center by improving its accessibility. Action Item: Increase public transit access and frequency between Downtown and key destinations and throughout the city. Metric: Decrease headways, or the average interval of time between vehicles moving in the same direction on the same route. Timeframe: Long. Responsible: Transit Department.

The CPIC would have contact with each department through the implementation matrix and would be open to either annual or semiannual progress reports to the Fort Smith Board of Directors at regular meetings.

Also Tuesday, in a follow up to Monday’s announcement that Nathaniel Clark would fill the role of Fort Smith Police Chief vacated by Kevin Lindsey in March, City Administrator Carl Geffken said a start date for Clark had not been determined and he would update once the date is set.