The Nebraska Chapter of the American Planning Association recently held its annual APA awards ceremony in Kearney on March 10, 2016 at the NPZA Annual Planning Conference. Three awards were received by JEO and our clients in three of the eighteen categories.

Blair APA AwardThe first award received was the “Daniel Burnham Award for Comprehensive Plan” for the Blair Comprehensive Plan. The comprehensive plan was completed through a partnership of JEO, HDR, and the City of Blair. The Daniel Burnham Award honors one comprehensive plan that advances the science and art of planning, while making a greater awareness of the benefits of good planning.

In 2014, the City of Blair faced a unique issue of being an established, successful community found within the booming Omaha/Council Bluffs metropolitan area. However, growth in and around the community was creating pressure on the local housing market. The city is land-locked between the Missouri River and corresponding floodplain on one side and significant bluffs and topography found on the other. By creating a comprehensive plan, it provided a strategy for the city to help with housing development and redevelopment. In addition to housing, the plan provides an urban design component to help guide the city to improve its aesthetics in order to reflect the high quality of life. The plan was also built upon the recommendations made by the recently completed Blair Parks Master Plan and Trails Update, as well as the Heartland 2050 regional growth plan.

To help guide the planning process, JEO relied on a level of commitment and engagement from the city, public, and the citizen’s advisory committee (CAC) that was established for this plan. To gather input, JEO planners held public meetings, created public online forums, and conducted stakeholder interviews. Technology was a key component to all this information, such as the use of Turning Technologies handheld polling system and the BuildBlair website that utilized mySidewalk, formerly known as MindMixer. Visitors of the website helped provide 50 unique options to improve the community. To ensure implementation of the plan’s identified goals, a comprehensive plan committee was formed and continues to revisit the plan.

The second award received LPS NRD Drought Tournamentwas the “APA Award for Public Outreach” for the Lower Platte South NRD Drought Management Plan and Drought Tournament. This plan was completed through a partnership of JEO and the Lower Platte South NRD. The Public Outreach Award honors an individual, project, or program that uses information and education about the value of planning to create greater awareness among citizens or segments of the public. The award recognizes improvements to a community’s quality of life.

In 2015, Lower Platte South NRD took a bold step in hosting the first ever drought tournament in Nebraska. Not only was it the first tournament held within the state, but it was also significantly different than others that have taken place previously. The tournament utilized a real watershed and historic drought as the scenario.

The success of the tournament was due to the more than 15 entities that attended. Some of these entities included local agricultural producers, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, county emergency management, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, USDA, among others. This four hour event engaged the entities through discourse and cross-sector training. The final output was a better understanding of how key stakeholders prepare for and respond to a drought, as well as a better understanding of how the gaps in planning and preparedness can be addressed. The tournament was the first step in development of the Lower Platte South NRD Drought Management Plan.

Lastly, JEO received the “APA Award for Best Planning Firm”. This award honors a planning firm that has produced distinguished work that continues to influence the professional practice of planning. The City of Gretna nominated JEO to receive this award. Criteria required for this award included the firm’s quality of work, influence, ethical practice, and outreach/engagement. As written in the application, “JEO has proved time and time again that they are leaders in the field of planning. Their knowledge and work ethic continues to impress us. Through their use of technology to gain public input, the comprehensive plans are feasible and easy to implement. Not only is their use of technology efficient, but it also makes the planning process enjoyable.”

JEO helped Gretna complete the city’s comprehensive plan with an urban design component, park and trail master plan, zoning ordinance with design guidelines, subdivision regulations, blight studies, the Fields at Gretna Master Plan, strategic plan, and multiple goal setting documents. JEO also serves as the City of Gretna’s contracted city planner and assists in project review and staff report preparation.

Receiving an APA award is a significant accomplishment, of which JEO, the City of Blair, and Lower Platte South NRD should be honored. However, JEO is proud of Blair and Lower Platte South NRD’s eagerness and continued excitement to better serve its constituents.

Congratulations JEO Planning and Hazard Mitigation Emergency Planning Departments, City of Blair, and Lower Platte South NRD on your recent APA Awards!!