Plano Comprehensive Plan Builds Community Trust

The new, updated Comprehensive Plan for the City of Plano is a guiding document and a resourceful platform for community engagement and support. The previous Comprehensive Plan won the 2017 Daniel Burnham Award, the APA’s National Planning Excellence Award. But the public wanted to better understand future development in Plano, so they City set out to create an updated plan that added clarity, improved on the previous work and built community trust.

Freese and Nichols conducted a five-year update to the previous plan and facilitated an Ad Hoc Committee input process. The City Council created a 16-member Comprehensive Plan Review Committee (CPRC) and tasked them with developing an updated plan to address key issues. The Freese and Nichols team worked with CPRC to help identify concerns with the previous plan and solutions for the update.

The team designed a structured platform that provides easy accessibility and opportunities to comment and ask questions regarding the updated plan. It highlights the planning approach by incorporating guiding principles, future land use dashboards, a land use and housing inventory tool, and zoning process improvement.


​​​​​​​Providing specificity within the plan for residents to understand community developments was the key component and model for improvements to the previous plan. Combining informative details with community involvement during the planning process to develop a system that addressed key issues and their needs makes the updated plan impactful.

A two-page dashboard was developed for each land use category, supplying information the community sought. Each category contains reports with elaborate details and an added summary box containing important highlights. Graphic bars contributed to envisioning development plans with before and after visuals, which proved to be very successful with improving the community’s understanding of the land use categories.

The well-designed dashboard was a crucial element to achieving the goal of all-around understanding. The updated plan took a proactive approach to develop solutions. The two-page dashboard was designed based on recommendations and character-defining elements needed for comprehension.

Engagement and Quality

The City Council appointed the 16-member Comprehensive Plan Review Committee, which represented people from across the City, including supporters and opponents of the previous plan. Planning entailed weeks of meetings involving education to develop the improvements.

The planning process included different techniques for public involvement and providing feedback. The project team offered translated documents and sessions, placed signs in the community and used social media messaging. Testimonial videos with CPRC members addressing their feelings on key issues helped make information relatable.

The Plano Comprehensive Plan is a resourceful platform that supplies residents with convenience and online engagement. The system lets residents leave comments and ask questions regarding changes from the previous plan and allows for unlimited research.
Because of anticipated growth, it was important to know how many new housing units the City might add by 2050. The plan contains a special Executive Summary that walks readers through development scenarios and can be printed or downloaded in Adobe PDF format as a standalone document.


Guiding principles and framework supported the process toward adoption and implementation of the new comprehensive plan. To build momentum and public support of the plan, the City took initiatives by approaching the key issues within the plan. During the development process, the CPRC also determined a need for improving communication regarding new growth and redevelopment. City staff created several zoning process improvements that included updating the “Active Zoning Case” webpage, revising written zoning notices so they are easy to understand, and developing a zoning case alert system for residents to receive notifications.

The updated plan is a meaningful, effective plan that delivers specificity that improves the understanding and livelihood of the community. The four elements within the new plan address issues raised from the previous plan. The new document is community-based, data-driven, interactive and precise.
The updated plan shows how the City listened to their community, involved their residents and built trust by focusing on their need to understand the future of their home. It reflects the contributions and efforts that set the foundation and support of the plan, along with the development of a unified and shared community vision that helped overcome years of politically polarizing issues related to growth.