As the hub of the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta, Bethel has been experiencing growth from the region’s 56 villages, and many regional conditions have changed since the city’s comprehensive plan was adopted in 1997. Bethel currently faces many economic and development challenges, including extremely high energy and housing prices, the need to diversify the local economy, and the possible need to relocate the port because of changing river patterns. Within this context, the City of Bethel hired Agnew::Beck to help update its Comprehensive Plan, which will guide future development and growth in the City for the next 10-25 years and provide direction for the City’s nine departments. Agnew::Beck’s approach emphasized a public participation process that focused on bringing together various stakeholders and members of the community to carry the plan through review and approvals and into implementation. We actively sought input from City Council and local leaders throughout the process and used a citizen advisory committee to build partnerships, support and accountability for the plan.
Agnew::Beck used a strategic planning approach for the plan’s implementation chapter, working extensively with the citizen advisory committee to prioritize implementation actions, identify potential partners, funding sources and magnitude of cost across all City of Bethel departments. This extra step was intended to give Bethel City Council and City staff a jumpstart on implementation as well as a guide to city priorities that can be used to provide continuity in the face of staff or council turnover and an objective means of support in responding to controversial issues addressed by the plan. Our approach also included an emphasis on financial sustainability, working with City staff to identify and include improvements to the City’s capital planning and financial management practices. Through the comprehensive planning process, Agnew::Beck helped revise and simplify the city’s land use plan map to better reflect the present and future realities of local land use and the capacity of Bethel’s small city government to enforce their land use regulations. These changes set the stage for the City to streamline their zoning code and focus enforcement efforts where they are most needed. Our plan also provided the City with a series of updated maps and a head start on future efforts to organize and fully digitize their map inventory. The Bethel Comprehensive Plan was adopted soon after completion by the Bethel City Council in September 2011.