How planning affects your quality of life

Did you know your eyes process more information than your brain can ever put into words? 

Look around you, and what do you see?  A phone?  A computer?  A framed picture of the dog?  A spot that was missed the last time you dusted? If you happen to stop by my house, you’re welcome to overlook that last one.

Those questions were easy. But did you also note the light blue paint on the walls?  The texture of the leaves on the potted fern?  The plaid pattern on the upholstered chair?  Now we’re talking. 

Did the hue of the walls remind you of your beach vacation?  Did you remember you haven’t watered that plant in weeks? Did you think about how the dog curls up for a nap at the foot of the same chair every afternoon? If you did, I’m impressed.

Let’s go a final step: Did you notice how your surroundings made you feel? Happy?  Pressured?  Relaxed?  Even if you didn’t, it probably had a subconscious impact.

How does that apply to planning?

Assessing a community’s quality of life is a similar exercise to answering those questions. If you ask “why do you like College Station?” you’ll typically get variations of these responses:  

  • “The university.”
  • “The parks.”
  • “The neighborhoods.”
  • “The businesses.”
  •  “The friendly people.”
  • “The unique history.”
  • “The economic opportunities.”

You probably won’t hear too many responses like these:

  • “The landscaping helps to hide the cars and the cement in the parking lot.”
  • “The restrained signage helps keep me focused on the road.”
  • “The waterline is sized to support new development, which increases my options.”

Regardless of whether it’s acknowledged or not, environmental details can impact a community’s quality of life.  At the surface of any quality of life discussion, most people will list the elements that contribute to their satisfaction and sense of place.  These elements — the university, the parks, the neighborhoods, the businesses —embody what matter to residents. But deep down in the details is where appropriate planning provides substantial value.

Good planning leads to better choices

Planning enables civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play meaningful roles in enriching people’s lives by creating communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live.  Planners research and educate the public on current city conditions and facilitate healthy discussions on issues such as land use, neighborhood integrity and transportation infrastructure. They help stakeholders reach consensus on the big-picture items — parks, neighborhoods, economic development — then help break down the big picture into smaller, more detailed and manageable goals and objectives that eventually become actions that have a positive impact.

The shared community vision that results from the planning process eventually is achieved through consistent policy decisions and efforts. Public participation in the planning process is essential, and it doesn’t end when the plan is created or approved by the city council. Successful implementation often requires public action and feedback. 

While many actions are the city’s responsibility, various community groups, organizations or neighborhoods may have specific roles as well. Many of the city’s implementation responsibilities will require additional public input. In all levels of planning, public participation and respect for compromises lead to better outcomes that reflect the community’s vision and improves the community’s quality of life.

College Station has benefited from planning

As October’s observance of National Community Planning Month comes to a close, it’s an ideal time to recognize and celebrate College Station’s planning and development accomplishments. The value of planning in our community includes the tangible (the new Scott & White Hospital under construction), the pseudo-tangible (the infrastructure improvements and regulations in Northgate that resulted in an increased tax base), and the intangible (the city’s various neighborhood plans). 

It’s no wonder that College Station has been named the No. 1 College Town in America (Livability.com), one of the Top 10 U.S. Cities for Raising Families (Kiplinger’s), and the No. 6 Small U.S. City for Business and Careers (Forbes). That’s just a few of our recent accolades.

Your eyes will always see more than you can articulate.  The important thing to remember is that your surroundings have a profound effect on your quality of life, and you can help shape those surroundings by getting involved in College Station’s planning efforts. 

Let us know how we can help!

Lance Simms
Molly Hitchcock
Assistant Director
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