By: Jeff Parkey, AICP, APA South Carolina Director-at-Large
In the summer of 2016, APA South Carolina’s first-ever Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) project was completed in Chesnee, South Carolina. “Chesnee’s Untapped Potential” proved to be a great success – both for Chesnee, and for APA South Carolina.
The CPAT program
By bringing together planning professionals from across the state, APA South Carolina’s Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) program provides pro bono assistance to communities in South Carolina with limited planning capabilities. Working with local leaders, community members, and other groups and organizations, CPATs assist communities with economic development issues, growth management challenges, conceptual urban designs, and a variety of other planning-related concerns. Applicants provide a basic project outline and a statement of needs and goals, and with some intensely focused planning know-how, the CPAT delivers practical, implementable results.
Focus on Chesnee
The town of Chesnee, South Carolina lies at the crossroads of the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway and US Highway 221 in Spartanburg County. Within easy reach of Greenville, Spartanburg, Charlotte, and Asheville, and with Cowpens National Battlefield, two lakes, and abundant farmland just outside the town limits, Chesnee is surrounded by rich natural, cultural, historic, and recreational resources. Despite this context, however, Chesnee’s economy has experienced recent decline, with more and more empty storefronts and fewer and fewer young professionals.
Reviving Chesnee’s economy and enhancing its small-town quality of life now means taking advantage of the rich assets so close at hand. Recognizing this, Crossroads of the Carolinas – a group of Chesnee business owners, citizens, and elected officials – reached out to APA South Carolina for CPAT assistance. Their request sought specific action items that would position Chesnee for reaping the benefits of its unique location and surroundings.
The project was handed to eight planners from across South Carolina who came together in Chesnee for two days of tours, charrettes, stakeholder meetings, and public outreach. These efforts were preceded by team leader Alec Brebner’s preliminary groundwork with Crossroads of the Carolinas, Upstate Forever, and Spartanburg County.
The result of the team’s work was a set of recommended actions for Chesnee concerning tourism and branding, infrastructure enhancements, and strategic partnering opportunities. The CPAT members felt that moving first on these items would best achieve project goals and provide a strategic advantage for Chesnee’s broader community planning efforts.
Looking forward to 2017
With its first CPAT project successfully completed, APA South Carolina looks forward to helping more communities in 2017. The capacity to do so is evident – APA South Carolina members all over the state possess a wide range of talents and experience. And the desire to help is evident, too – far more members volunteered for the CPAT than could be taken on the Chesnee project.
Stay tuned for future CPAT opportunities, and be assured that the experience will prove rewarding for both the applicant communities and the team members, too.
For more information on SC CPAT, visit: https://scapa.org/community-planning-assistance-teams-cpat/.
CPAT members included Alec Brebner, AICP, Mark Davis, AICP, Charles Drayton, Martin Livingston, AICP, Robby Moody, AICP, John Newman, AICP, Jeff Parkey, AICP, Josh Stevens, and Rodney Tucker, AICP. The team wishes to thank Verhonda Crawford of the Chesnee City Council and Crossroads of the Carolinas, Flash Blanton of Crossroads of the Carolinas, Sherry Barrett of Upstate Forever Spartanburg, and APA South Carolina.