Mountain Landscapes Initiative

2008, western NC.  A seven-county regional project to promote conversation about growth management.

Mountain Landscapes Initiative was launched by the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina to help the state’s western region plan for growth.  The initiative began in 2007-08, when the Foundation partnered with the Southwestern Commission (Region A Council of Governments) to develop a “Region A Toolbox” of best practices for planning and development in North Carolina’s seven westernmost counties and the Qualla Boundary.  Cumming and Norwood led the public outreach phase of this Toolbox initiative, adapting the CVM process that they had previously developed in Macon County.  In a region historically hostile to planning, CVM enabled this unprecedented initiative to garner broad local buy-in.

More than 70 interviews were conducted during early spring 2008.  The interviews were analyzed, and excerpts were incorporated into a film entitled Seeking Balance in the Mountains.  Norwood coordinated the analysis and presentation of regional growth trend data.  The data presentation and documentary were screened at a series of ten facilitated public meetings that were held across the region in April 2008, attracting approximately 300 participants.

View Seeking Balance in the Mountains:

Seeking Balance in the Mountains from Gabriel Cumming on Vimeo.

 

Project results:

Citizens’ top growth management concerns, as identified through CVM interviews and meetings, were then used to set the agenda for the Region A Toolbox Charrette, an unprecedented, week-long participatory planning workshop held at Western Carolina University in May 2008.  The resulting Region A Toolbox document is a regional growth management resource grounded in the concerns and ideas of local stakeholders.

The Toolbox initiative, in turn, spawned a number of local initiatives across the region, with funding available through a Next Steps Fund.  These initiatives included ongoing work by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee and partners to preserve the cultural landscape of Macon County’s Cowee Valley—an effort with which Cumming and Norwood have remained involved.

The Region A Toolbox project received state and national planning awards: the 2010 County Planning Award from the American Planning Association and the 2009 Marvin Collins Outstanding Planning Award from the NC Chapter of the APA.

 

Related links:

The Community Foundation of Western NC’s MLI website