Hyattsville updates community sustainability plan
BY DAN BEHREND
The City of Hyattsville is developing a new five-year strategic plan to update the city’s vision and goals for a range of sustainability topics.
The 2022–2026 Community Sustainability Plan’s webpage notes that “‘sustainability’ encompasses a broad spectrum of social, environmental, economic, and cultural issues to ensure the City’s survival and success.”
City staff and elected leaders use the sustainability plan to identify actions to achieve and to track progress toward the city’s sustainability goals.
The new plan will update and replace the city’s prior sustainability plan, which covered 2017 to 2021 and included goals for public spaces, historic preservation, cultural diversity, affordable housing, public safety, street safety, local businesses, land development and sustainable growth.
To develop the new plan, the city began a multi-phase planning process in February 2022. That process will continue through June 2023, when the city aims to publish the final plan.
The current phase, public engagement aimed at identifying the community’s vision for a more sustainable Hyattsville, runs until mid-January.
During late September and mid-October, city staff led in-person community visioning sessions at Nicholas Orem Middle School and the Hyattsville Branch Library, as well as two virtual meetings, to collect community input.
Interested residents can still provide feedback through the new Hello Hyattsville online portal (hellohyattsville.com). This online community engagement space currently poses four sustainability-related discussion questions, including “What does community sustainability mean to you?” and “What is your big idea for Hyattsville?” Community members can use Hello Hyattsville to respond to questions, discuss other participants’ comments, and upvote comments they support.
While only a handful of comments are posted so far, members of the community have used Hello Hyattsville to comment on a variety of topics, including encouraging diversity, supporting local businesses, reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, increasing street safety, building rain gardens, enhancing connections to public transit, and collaborating with surrounding municipalities. One participant noted the negative public health impacts caused by poor air quality and shared information about a collaboration between the University of Maryland, Maryland Department of the Environment and the Town of Cheverly that uses a network of low-cost sensors to monitor air quality. That participant also commented, “I encourage Hyattsville to consider building an air quality monitoring network as part of the Sustainability Plan, and using these data to aid in decision making to address hotspots where poor air quality is frequent in our city.”
City staff have also placed QR codes throughout the city, which allow people to use text messages to “chat” with objects around town, learn about city initiatives, and provide feedback on city projects, including the sustainability plan.
The QR codes posted around town connect to a communication tool called Hello Lamp Post, created by a British company. Over 25 cities around the world have used Hello Lamp Post for community engagement. City staff believe Hyattsville is the first to use the tool in the Washington, D.C., region.
The next phase of community engagement will begin in mid-January to identify the plan’s priorities. Details for those meetings have not yet been announced.
Residents will also have an opportunity to provide feedback on a draft of the plan in April and May 2023.
To assist in the development of the plan, the city hired Assedo Consulting LLC. Assedo Consulting will be responsible for assisting the city with graphics, branding, community planning sessions, a community debrief and content development.
Consultants from Assedo may be familiar to some residents, as the company has worked on several local projects through contracts with the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation and the Prince George’s County Planning Department. Recently, Assedo facilitated community meetings for the county’s development of a new and updated master plan of transportation and for a pedestrian and bicyclist behavioral study.
The city’s 2017–2021 sustainability plan won the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association’s award for Outstanding Plan. The vision of the prior plan was “To create a thriving city, grounded in sustainability and inclusiveness, that advances the lives of its residents through the building of community, connectivity of people and places, and responsible development.”
According to the most recently posted progress report from August 2021, the city had completed 41.8% of the 67 action items contained in the prior plan, including mapping and cataloging historic elements. The city had 31.3% of its action items, including installing refillable water bottle stations in public spaces, in progress or ongoing. About 26.9% of the action items, such as working on an entrepreneurship center in Hyattsville to foster local businesses, had not yet begun.
Residents interested in helping the city shape the vision and goals of the new sustainability plan should visit hellohyattsville.com to join the discussion, keep an eye out for QR codes posted around the city, and watch for announcements from the city about future community engagement opportunities.