Outstanding examples of planning in the West
by Dan Pava
The 2012 Western Planner Awards were presented in Billings during the annual conference. Held in the curatorial annex of the Yellowstone Art Museum, the ceremony recognized four people and bestowed six awards. The annex, known as the Visible Vault, provided a stimulating if unconventional venue for the awards. While late afternoon temperatures were hovering around 100 outside, it was cooler and a bit noisier inside with the assembled crowd. This location, where museum exhibits are works-in-progress, was a good place to celebrate the efforts of planners who also are similarly engaged with outstanding examples of planning in the West.
Planner of the Year
Cheyenne Planning and Development Director Brandon Cammarata was recognized as the Planner of the Year for his leadership on the city’s Unified Development Code (UDC). Brandon, a Denver native, has established a reputation as a leader who uses a critical-path approach in accomplishing consensus in developing practical and efficient regulations and community-centered planning for Wyoming’s capitol city. The UDC process was not a simple one, despite its stated goal to clarify, streamline and improve the existing development regulation strewn across three different documents, with some code over 40-years-old. Brandon was charged with leading public meetings as the Critical Path Committee, made up of members from the building and development community who were appointed by the mayor, worked diligently through 250 pages of code, word by word, over a period of 10 months and 20 meetings. In January 23, 2012, the Cheyenne City Council unanimously approved the UDC, and members of the Critical Path Committee, some of whom initially opposed the project, espoused the qualities of the UDC and the cooperative attitude that Brandon had fostered to make all side compromise to create a development code that was uniquely Cheyenne.
Local guy Wyeth Friday was recognized with the Lester Award for “extinguishing” himself in the line of duty as the Billings Conference Coordinator. This award recognizes a planner who has somehow survived the often rough and tumble world of western planning during the last year. Since no one to our knowledge had been fired or resigned, it seemed appropriate to recognize Wyeth for getting us all together in Billings. I can attest as the Santa Fe conference chair, that he deserves this award.
WPR Board President Matt Ashby bestowed the President’s Award upon long-time WP Board Member Ben Orsbon, FAICP for his many years of service “since forever” and his “cutting edge” contributions to The Western Planner. Ben was there when it all began, and he recalled why The Western Planner started and why it is vitally important 31 years later. Ben was also recognized for his feature article “TO AVOID A TAKING: Special assessments must create special benefits” that appeared in the October/November 2011 issue of The Western Planner. The Stan Steadman Feature Article Award to Ben was enhanced by the presence of its namesake, Stan Steadman, and his wife who had somehow wandered into Billings from Soldotna, Alaska for the occasion.
Sheldon D. Gerber Merit Award for Excellence in Environmental Planning
The Sheldon D. Gerber Merit Award for Excellence in Environmental Planning was presented to Mark Apel, who is currently the Area Associate Agent for the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Sierra Vista. In 2011 and 2012, Mark was integral in launching online course “Living Sustainably – It’s Your Choice,” as well as developing a 10-hour course for planning commissioners in Arizona. He recently developed a GIS-based analysis of the fundamental suitability of siting utility-scale solar facilities throughout 6,200 sq. mile Cochise County. Mark was also recognized for his feature article “Conservation Subdivisions— An Alternative to Western Ranchettes” that appeared in the January/February 2011 issue.