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2016 Municipal Plans, Programs, and Operations Survey Results

The biennial CMAP Municipal Survey is a way for the agency to track progress toward reaching goals outlined in GO TO 2040, to develop ON TO 2050 recommendations, and to help CMAP provide appropriate support services for municipalities through efforts such as the Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program. The 2016 survey shows continuing high demand for the types of projects currently undertaken by CMAP staff through the LTA program, with significant demand for other products that would support local governments in planning efforts.

The survey, which asked elected officials and municipal staff from every municipality in the CMAP region to answer specific questions about local planning and policies, was conducted during spring and summer of 2016. A record number of municipalities responded to the survey with 231, or 81.3 percent of the region's municipalities, participating. The results show an ongoing interest in long-term planning, as well as interest in continued support from CMAP to create plans and implement plan goals.

Local planning

One building block of effective communities is to have an up-to-date comprehensive plan. Comprehensive plans, as well as plans for economic development, transit oriented development, and sub areas, provide a vision and direction for long-term development within a municipality. Plans must be updated periodically to reflect changes in economic conditions and resident preferences.

According to the survey results, 79 percent of municipalities said that producing a plan is a priority for their government in the next two years, with 42 percent saying it was a "high" priority. The most popular plans municipal leaders said they were interested in developing were economic development plans and comprehensive plans. More than half, 61 percent of respondents, said they would be interested in receiving technical assistance from CMAP to help create these plans.

Updating local codes

Keeping municipal codes and ordinances up to date with best practices and the needs of developers, businesses, and residents is another priority for local government leaders. According to the survey, 67 percent of municipalities listed "developing a new, or revising an existing, code or ordinance pertaining to land use, development, or transportation" as a priority. Of the 149 municipalities who said that would be a priority in the next two years, more than 100 of them said they would be most interested in developing or revising an existing zoning code. Again, more than half, 52 percent, said they would be interested in receiving technical assistance from CMAP to support this effort.

Other popular topics among municipalities were to train staff and elected officials as well as to develop or update a capital improvement program/plan. Both of those topics were listed as a priority for three-fourths of the municipalities that responded to the survey.

Funding development and implementation

As municipal budgets continue to be stretched thin, 80 percent of survey respondents said that applying for grants to support plan implementation would be a priority in the next two years, with 65 percent saying they would like technical assistance from CMAP for that effort.

This kind of technical assistance was listed as the most highly desired by municipalities within the CMAP region with 150 saying they would like help applying for grant funding. The next most desired types of CMAP help, according to the survey, were attracting development to a site, producing a plan, and developing a new code or ordinance.

Economic development continues to be a priority for municipalities. Over the next two years, 87 percent of municipalities said attracting development to a specific site is a priority, with 66 percent listing it as a "high" priority.

Asset management programs

One particular area the CMAP Municipal Survey chose to study in 2016 was pavement asset management programs within the region. Asset management is a strategic and systemic process of operating, maintaining, and improving physical assets.  It emphasizes both engineering and economic analysis based on high-quality information, to identify a structured sequence of maintenance, preservation, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement actions that will achieve and sustain a desired state of good repair throughout assets' lifecycle at a minimum practicable cost.

According to the survey results, less than half of the region's municipalities have a formal pavement management plan in place, and 39 percent have established long-term pavement performance targets. When asked about their primary method of prioritizing projects to reach those targets, the survey showed that actual decisions are being made through processes other than an asset management system. Fixing the worst conditions first was the most popular answer, with 106 municipalities saying that was their strategy. Other responses -- such as using advisory board or elected official recommendations or addressing community complaints -- were also given, although those kinds of non-research-based methods can result in higher long-term costs.

Next steps

As CMAP continues to develop ON TO 2050 and evaluate the programs offered in the LTA program, the results of the 2016 municipal survey will guide those decisions. It is clear that LTA continues to be in high demand, but we will work to evaluate potential new offerings to meet the needs of municipalities and align with agency objectives.