News & Insights

Becoming Resilient, Episode 2: Planning for Resiliency

Podcast Panelists

Kate Widness, <br/>CNU-A

Kate Widness,

Transportation and Community Resilience Planner

About This Episode

Planning specialists Kelley Klepper, AICP, and Kate Widness, CNU-A, talk about resiliency and how it relates to planning efforts. In this episode, Kelley and Kate dive into how the planning industry has become more resiliency-focused over the years, how resiliency work benefits local communities, and how public agencies, private developers, and other planning experts can benefit from taking a resilience-approach to planning.

Derek Roessler: Hello and welcome to episode two of our becoming resilient podcast, where we talk about Kimley-Horn’s new venture approach to the trending topic of community readiness and resiliency. I’m your host, Derek Roessler. And today we’ll be focusing on the topic of resiliency and how it relates to our planning efforts at Kimley-Horn. I’m joined once again by Kate witness, a transportation and community resilience planner from our Tallahassee office. Kate, welcome back.

Kate Widness: Hey Derek, it’s good to be back.

Derek: Nice to have you. And new to the podcast is Kelly Klepper, a senior planner in our Sarasota office with 28 years of experience. Kelly. Welcome.

Kelley Klepper: Thanks Derek. And also thank you Kate for the invitation to join here today.

Derek: Well, thank you both for being here. So Kelly, let’s start it off with you. You’ve been in the planning industry for nearly 30 years. Over that time, how have you seen clients start to incorporate resilience into their planning efforts?

Kelley: Yeah, and that’s a great question, Derek, because, you know, having been in the field for, you know, that amount of time, I’ve seen quite a bit of change, you know, cause I actually started working in the public sector up in Tennessee and then in the Kentucky before coming to Kimley-Horn for the last 15 years and you know, resiliency was not a key term or a word that we actually used in a lot of the planning lingo or the approaches, you know, resiliency, the things that we were kind of doing were related, but you know, we were looking at the flooding situation, you know, what was going on from a flood plain component development in the flood Plains. We were also looking at the heat Island effect as far as parking lot and building and site design. And you know, unfortunately we had one of our folks that I worked at that their approach to flooding was to build a wall around the community, which of course that didn’t work. But you know, as things have been changing in terms of also been changing, we’ve kind of gone from, I’ll say some key nebulous terms through to green building, through to lead. Now of course, with the resiliency planning efforts and a lot of the things, especially that Kate’s been working on from from a firmwide persepective.

Derek: So Kate, let me go to you. How has resilience or sustainability work benefiting your clients and the communities you’re both working in?

Kate: So when I was in school, what really drew me to becoming a planner was this idea that I ,Katelyn Widness, could have a role in how people would behave based on how a community was built. That I got to have a hand in creating. I swear I’m only slightly controlling. But what I’ve really learned over the years is through practice is you need to have strong data as well as public input and buy off to support any changes that are going to make a significant impact and how a community begins to develop or redevelop. Now taking the resilience approach has allowed us to provide our clients with additional data and all more data means is better decision making for the future. And as planners that’s what we’re doing is we’re trying to look into the future and make it as best as possible.

So using a resilience approach, such as the vulnerability and vulnerability and risk assessments that we’ve done for some municipalities, our clients have been better able to understand how different shocks or threats impact different components of our community and compare them holistically as well as individually. So we’ve been able to help our clients answer questions, you know, such as how does storm surge and nuisance flooding affect our assets differently in regard to how they’re exposed to these threats. But also we’ve been able to help them take a deeper dive into what are those impacted assets, you know, is the government owned property that’s continuously being exposed to flooding an emergency service. Now that’s obviously going to have a much bigger impact on a community wide scale than just that individual parcel. And it’s something that needs to clearly be addressed. Cause it’s going have an effect on a lot of people, you know, is the residential property that’s exposed to sea level rise, just a single family home, or is it a nursing home that has vulnerable populations within it?

So with this information that we’ve provided to our clients, they’ve been, they’ve been better. They’ve been better prepared to make better decisions with the limited resources that they do have. So knowing this information, our clients can update how we approach things like future development in areas and policies that we need to have in place to better address these shocks and threats. We can also see how these, how these different shocks and stressors and threats can disproportionately affect different populations. We’ve had several clients that we’ve worked for, worked with realize that some of their most vulnerable areas to the weather related events, the spatially mappable events have some of our highest percentage of vulnerable populations because we can make these correlations. We’re better able to address them now, but also make sure that we aren’t doing things like encouraging development, such as affordable housing and areas that have some of our highest exposure to some of our threats.

It’s just putting vulnerable populations in vulnerable situations. And that’s what we’re really trying to avoid. And by having a resilience approach, it allows us to better address that and make sure that we’re, that we’re putting our vulnerable populations in places where they’re not going to have these impacts that may or may not come along in the future. It’s also really helped with our outreach to stakeholder and community members for individual resilience and preparedness. You know, we can only be as strong as the residents, a part of our community and helping them better understand how to be better prepared, you know, what are things that they can do to their house to make it less vulnerable to crime or have a family escape plan in case of a fire really strengthens our community as a whole and helps to preserve our resources better.

Derek: That is just a little bit to consider. It sounds like Kelley, let me go to you. I know your experience is different from Kate. So I’d like to get your take on this question of how resilience or sustainability work benefits your clients and communities.

Kelley: Yeah. And thanks for that, and I love listening to Kate talk about resiliency. You know, it’s just the passion and the amount of information and the energy she brings to it. It, you know, it’s, it’s a great resource for not only myself, but a lot of our partners across the firm. And you know, one of the things I’ll say is, you know, a lot of people automatically think resilience means a sea level rise. And as Kate was just talking, it’s not just that, you know, it’s, it is truly a broad based planning approach. You know, there’s some common key aspects that kind of we’ll say cross geographic boundaries, but then there’s also those areas specific or regional specific.

And that’s where we really have to start thinking about what is what’s going on and how does that affect our clients, whether it be a public sector client or a private sector client, and, you know, Kate hit the nail on the head when she’s talking about all the different aspects of that. And one of the keys to this is education because there is a lot of misconception out there about what is resilient planning, what is resiliency and how does it actually apply both in the public sector and the private sector. And at the end of the day, there’s, you know, the bottom line is there’s a fiscal approach to this because, you know, if we said, if we continue to rebuild and hazard prone areas, that’s just leading to increased cost. But if it’s a private sector client, you know, we we’ve done a lot of work with those folks to where, you know, increased development, whether it’s through the hardening of the shoreline improvements or hardening of public facilities, roadways, waterlines, lift stations, things like that.

That’s just extra cost that goes into the development process. And those costs get passed on to the consumer at the end of the day. And, you know, with housing affordability, being a key component in a lot of communities, you know, the more costs that are being applied to a project, the less affordable some of those areas can be. So what we’ve actually been able to do is to work with some of our private sector clients and marry them up with our public sector clients or vice versa, and start coming up with some, I’ll say some high level planning and it can be as simple as identification of transfer development rights. You know, there’s a lot, always a lot of concern about from a land use or a takings perspective of are we requiring or forcing somebody to give up the use of their land without compensation?

Well, transfer development rights is one of those tools that we can save. If you’re willing to move your development rights out of this one area into another, you know, you’re still gaining that development approach. You’re still gaining that development program. And a lot of times we end up incentivizing that with some sort of multiplier or density bonus. And that also starts to get back into some of those other aspects of affordable housing through increased densities. And, you know, at the end of the day, part of that era that we’re talking about that may be subject to the resiliency and some of those target areas, you know, we’re not saying they become just kind of out there, but you know, is there a dual purposes or a multiuse component of that that could, where it can be like a passive park, a community focal point or a community asset as part of the neighborhood. And that way, you know, you’re getting a lot more benefit while preserving not only that area, but also the population that could be at risk otherwise.

Derek: So with all the considerations and concerns that both of you have mentioned, I think this last question that I have for you maybe the most challenging, but it’s certainly the most actionable and Kelley, I’ll go back and start with you on this one. If your clients can do one resiliency related thing in the coming year, what do you recommend that one thing be?

Kelley: You know, Derek, that’s actually a really tough question because there’s so many aspects, but the easy thing to say from my perspective is go back in and relook at your comprehensive plan at your, you know, your land use plans. Do you have the tools in place that set the stage for the development codes, the development standards to, you know, take care of the resiliency, to incentivize those developments where you can shift the development because the conference plan is kind of that overarching guide for all land use and development, whether it’s true raw land use from a residential or commercial setting, transportation, housing, parks, and recreation. And you know, if you’re not in compliance with your conference of plan, that can actually lead to challenges on a much broader scale. So, you know, going back and just doing that simple check and then if not adding those policies and procedures into your plan is critical.

Derek: That sounds good. And Kate, you get the last word on this one.

Kate: Yeah. And I would say just to kind of piggyback a little bit on what Kelley said is just really, you know, I would recommend that they look at how things like a vulnerability risk assessment and bringing in a resilience lens can improve or strengthen those updates to their documents, like their comprehensive plan and hazard mitigation plan and special projects. You know, as we’ve stated before, a resilience approach is really looking at planning through another lens, but I, I truly believe that this lens is one that isn’t just a buzzword and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Resilience really helps us make better decisions to make our communities stronger, healthier, more equitable, and sooner rather than later, I think every community is going to have to start showing documentation on how they utilize it in their decision making. If I could just add one more thing onto what I would recommend they do, it’s look into available funding for these assessments and for these resilience plan, every state offers different opportunities to help communities fund these types of projects to get them better prepared. So I would say research those, see when those opportunities are open and make sure you’re well prepared to go after them. Just to help get you in front of this, in front of the game and get you more resilient.

Derek: I don’t think anybody’s going to be upset with a little bit of bonus information there. Kate that works out really well. Well, Kate, Kelley, thank you both for joining us for episode two or becoming resilient podcast. And thank you all for listening to the next time when we’ll discuss the topic of resiliency and how to approach it from a transportation perspective

About the Speakers

Kelley Klepper, AICP

Kelley Klepper, AICP

Kelley has more than 28 years of planning experience across several states including Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia, including a thorough knowledge of comprehensive planning, growth management, public policy, form-based codes, budgeting, urban growth boundaries and management, code updates, small/special area plans, development-related issues facing growing communities, and urban/rural design. He has successfully worked with a number of local, regional and state planning agencies in the development of public policy and land use. Kelley has also presented at a number of local and state conferences as well as at the National Conference for the American Planning Association. In addition, he is experienced in coordinating and conducting public meetings, presentations and charrettes. Kelley’s work has been recognized by various state planning and redevelopment organizations. Prior to joining Kimley-Horn, Kelley worked in the public sector at various levels including serving as the Director of Development Services/Planning Director for a community in central Kentucky. 

Kate Widness, CNU-A

Kate Widness, CNU-A

Kate has more than eight years of experience in environmental and transportation planning with a specialization in bicycle and pedestrian planning. She has a passion for integrating active modes of transportation into the communities she works with to help encourage safer and more sustainable movement. She works on the planning, feasibility, and environmental phases for many regional trail projects that promote economic development. She recently began working on resiliency-focused projects, including the first Community Resilience Plan for the City of Tallahassee. Kate also has a passion for innovative public engagement methods that help to strengthen and empower participants in all the work that she does.


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