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Orange planners aim for ‘nitty-gritty’

In their first 2014 meeting, members of the Orange County Route 3 Steering Committee discussed and refined just what they expect to get out of their upcoming planning charrette.

Faith McClintic of Spectrum Growth Solutions explained that the collaborative, time-compressed planning session scheduled for March 2–4 is expected to provide practical ideas on how the area could be developed, factoring in marketability, infrastructure constraints, financial feasibility and other real-world issues.

McClintic will be organizing the charrette, assembling the panel of experts who will be taking part in the exercise. Their goal, she explained, will be to align Orange County’s current vision for the Route 3 corridor with what the county can actually support, in terms of skills, workforce, education levels and infrastructure.

“Sometimes,” she told steering committee members last week, “what you want and what is feasible just don’t match.”

Financial experts on the panel, she noted, would be attempting to “provide you with some creative ways to leverage the resources you have to fund the infrastructure improvements that will be necessary.”

She asked the committee to begin more narrowly defining their expectations, noting, “It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty.”

Supervisor Jim White felt that the charrette should produce recommendations, analyses of options, phasing and priorities.

“It’s not this big pretty map,” he said, “that we can show to the public that says, ‘Here are all the things that are going to be there—hotels, restaurants, business parks, et cetera.’”

Supervisor Lee Frame added, “The charrette gives us the real-world constraints and opportunities that this group can then sit down and build a plan from, in conjunction with the public.”

White reminded the committee that the recently adopted county comprehensive plan calls for a small area plan for the Route 3 area. That small area plan will become a master plan, with zoning and subdivision ordinances to support it, he and Frame said.

Committee members also felt that practical constraints on such things as which, if any, hotels might be interested in the area could become a vital factor in the final plan.

“Each franchise,” Planning Commissioner George Yancey pointed out, “has its own requirement for certain demographics. If you don’t have those demographics, you don’t get them.”

Noting that there are numerous concepts of what constitutes proper economic development, McClintic encouraged the committee to focus on the concept of sustainable development.

The charrette’s final product, McClintic said, would likely be “a very high-level view of the highest and best uses for the property, given physical constraints, regulations, and so on.”

Dan McFarland:


A charrette is a collaborative session of intense design and planning for solving a design problem within a limited time frame, involving local knowledge, concerns and values coupled with outside expertise. In land use or urban planning, the stakeholders involved may include municipal officials, developers and residents, as well as experts.

The term evolved from a 19th-century French exercise in which architecture students were given a design problem to solve in an allotted time. Approaching their deadline, the students would rush their drawings from their studio to the school, in the back of a cart (charrette, in French.) Sometimes the students would jump into the cart themselves to finish their drawings along the way, resulting in collaborative time-pressured solutions.