The definition of “master plan” is a plan giving comprehensive guidance or instruction and provides a blueprint for the future. A master plan provides a framework for long-range planning while preserving the flexibility necessary to respond to changing conditions. Master planning graphically presents preferred development concepts, defines the purpose and need for development projects and most of all assures compatible land use development. For Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc., a successful master plan includes the following characteristics: balance, in that the plan should maintain a balance between development needs and community, economic, environmental and social impacts; environmental compatibility, where the plan should minimize potential environmental impacts and promote the sustainability of the resource; financial feasibility, where the phasing of the plan’s capital projects should be aligned with identified need and the ability to secure available funding; technically sound, where the plan should comply with Federal, State, and local requirements and should be able to be constructed efficiently and cost effectively; responsive, where the plan should address the physical and operational needs of stakeholders; and finally, flexibility, where the plan should consider changes in dynamics which will enable the client to be responsive and prosperous.
Open Space Planning
Open space, whether it be developed athletic facilities with ball fields or undeveloped natural areas with a trail through the woods or boardwalk across the wetlands, is essential to quality of life. It is one of the variables people evaluate when choosing where to live. Open space is never inexpensive, whether because of the cost of acquisition, demolition and /or clean-up, land in a mature city, or land on the urban fringe that is priced according to the “highest and best use.” It is therefore essential to plan long-term for the acquisition of open space where it is or will be needed, so that it can be acquired before the cost escalates or costs can be incorporated into a long-term land acquisition and capital plan.
As planners, landscape architects, and environmentalists, Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. provides the necessary expertise to develop open space strategies and plans. In Chicago, we were one of the planners for CitySpace, an open space plan for the entire city founded on four cardinal principles: (1) Inventory the existing supply of open space, (2) Identify un-served or underserved populations and areas, 3) Identify land acquisition opportunities, and 4) Develop a capital plan and funding strategies to acquire land in the areas where it is needed most. Urbandale, Iowa is a smaller city, but it is on the developing fringe of Des Moines, Iowa. The city was growing in area and population, and Urbandale decided to undertake a long-range parks and open space master plan before the affordable and available land was taken. Subsequent to the plan we were selected to work on the master plan for one of the sites identified, the West Side Regional Park Community Master Plan.
Planned Unit Developments and Zoning Projects
Many municipalities require that larger or more sensitive projects be reviewed as Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) with site-specific zoning, rather than being reviewed under existing “as of right” zoning. Other projects may require additional municipal review; projects with drive-through facilities, for example, such as banks and fast food restaurants, may require review by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Many municipalities not only have guidelines for architectural and landscape treatments, they also require review by an Appearance Commission or a similar body devoted to the visual and aesthetic character and impacts of projects. Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. has the experience and expertise to assist our clients through the PUD and other review processes. We understand the client’s goal for expeditious and reasonable resolution of the planning and zoning review process, just as we understand the local government process, because we also provide, on behalf of several municipalities, review of the site and landscape components of PUDs.