The History of VisionFH
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
The creation of a citizen-driven movement to help with the development and planning of Fountain Hills as told by FH resident, Jerry Butler
Strategic Planning Background
In 2004 the Town Council concurred the time had come to generate a Strategic Plan (the first ‘planning’ meeting since 1995) and it was agreed that it had to be citizen-driven, simple to understand, financially responsible, and realistic. Subsequently the Town hosted two citizen meetings to discuss creating the Plan and the process began with an in-depth analysis of the community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats led by an informal Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). In April 2005 a report was prepared by Blackerby Associates entitled “Where We Are Now”.
The position report addressed (1) population, demographics, and housing, (2) the economy relative to commerce, tourism, and economic development, (3) Town finances, (4) land use, (5) Town amenities, (6) public safety, (7) the environment, including resources, and (8) neighboring jurisdictions.
The key challenges identified then were: (1) what should be the community’s vision 5-20 years out; (2) should an alternative to Shea Boulevard be provided; (3) should a property tax be explored to reduce the community’s dependence on volatile sales taxes; (4) should the State Trust Land be annexed; (5) what amenities will population growth require; (6) what actions, if any, can be undertaken to increase the affordability of housing to attract young families and create a more diverse demographic base; (7) how can the Town ensure that multi-generational needs be included in new facilities and resources; (8) how can the Town preserve its unique open spaces and protect itself against its main natural disaster (forest fires); and (9) can the Town engage its neighbors in collaborative discussions, and then covert the dialogue into strategies and plans?
Following a series of Town Hall meetings involving more than 1600 citizens, the Town Council adopted a Strategic Plan, and in February 2006 a Strategic Planning Advisory Commission (SPAC) was created to champion the Plan’s implementation and periodic updates. The 2005 Strategic Plan included twelve priorities and 38 tasks.
(Ideas that did not become priorities in 2005 included: a teen activity center, aquatic center, performing arts center, stand-alone senior center, widening Fountain Hills Boulevard, acquiring land for a 15-acre park, a town-operated trash collection system, and improving public transportation to other communities.)
In 2008 the Town was experiencing a downturn in the economy, like every community, and it was forced to take actions to soften the financial impacts. Included were a reduction in staff, a reorganization of departments, adjusted fee schedules, and fewer special events, to name a few. Many of the Goals adopted in the 2005 Strategic Plan had to be put on-hold due to a lack of money.
Spurred in part by the changes in the economy, SPAC recognized the importance of updating the Strategic Plan and in early 2009 began the process that included resident input. Four phases were established: (I) conducted a gap analysis of the existing Plan, (II) shared changing realities throughout the community, (III) reconstructed a Plan that addressed the Town’s vision, and (IV) provided the Town Council with a citizen-endorsed 2010 Strategic Plan.
During the summer of 2009 the public was asked for feedback on community values using open-ended questions that included: (1) what do you value most about the Town; (2) what do you not like about the community; (3) how is the Town changing; (4) what are our future challenges; (5) have our values changed, and (6) have our priorities changes. Using feedback received from stakeholders SPAC then facilitated public discussions that attracted several hundred residents.
In May 2010, the Town Council adopted a Vision statement and a revised Strategic Plan. The adopted Vision Statement acknowledges (in part) that Fountain Hills is a distinctive community designed to invigorate the body, mind and spirit, and strives to: (i) be stewards of this unique enclave; (ii) champion the diversity of experience of its residents; (iii) be economically sustainable; and (iv) be civic-minded and friendly. The 2010 Strategic Plan included eight objectives and 48 tasks.
(A full update of the Strategic Plan was recommended every five years with annual reviews and adjustments made as necessary. The process outlined included (1) review/revise the Plan; (2) set annual goals; (3) outline an action plan; (4) develop and adopt a budget; (5) monitor accomplishments.)
When the time came in 2015 to update the Strategic Plan the Town concluded it did not have the financial resources to hire a consultant to take the pulse of the entire community, so a group of non-partisan residents stepped up to take on the challenge. In April, the Fountain Hills Cultural and Civic Association (FHCCA) formally organized a program called Vision Fountain Hills that was designed for citizens to engage with each other on critical issues facing the community.
The mission of VisionFH was to make Fountain Hills a better place to live by directly involving as many residents as possible in identifying solutions for a sustainable future. Initially the committee examined the community’s overall strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) and after that, it engaged some key stakeholders to assess community values included in the 2010 Strategic Plan, plus seek suggestions and comments.
From the SWOT analysis and stakeholder feedback, five community values were created and a community Survey was made available online at VisionFH.org. To get everyone’s attention to participate in the Survey a mailer was sent to all households. The Survey asked residents to rank the relevancy of major issues, such as: (1) recreational opportunities, (2) education, learning and cultural opportunities, (3) public safety, health and welfare, (4) business and economic vitality, and (5) infrastructure importance. When the Survey closed on March 31, 2016 nearly 2,000 residents had voiced their opinions.
On May 7, 2016 a workshop was held to come up with solutions for the subjects identified in the Survey that mattered the most to residents and about 100 residents participated. The Workshop goal was to establish a doable action plan and twelve days later, on May 19, the findings were presented to the Town Council.
After VisionFH had completed its objectives, the Strategic Planning Advisory Commission (SPAC) generated a new Strategic Plan that was subsequently adopted by the Town Council in 2017. The ‘2017 Strategic Plan’ included five Goals to be fulfilled by 2020: (1) maximize economic development opportunities with eight tasks, (2) ensure the infrastructure is well-maintained and safe utilizing 4 tasks, (3) attract families and working professionals with seven tasks, (4) ensure the Town’s finances are stable and sustainable with three tasks, and (5) focus on strengthening the community and improving quality of life, including schools, using guidance outlined in five tasks. The 2017 Strategic Plan included five goals, twelve objectives and 27 tasks.
(By the end of 2019 all five goals had been addressed, seven tasks had been completed or are in process, and it was concluded then that possibly eleven tasks would have to be reset in 2020 due to various constraints, including a lack of resources to bring some to reality.)
And now it’s 2020. So, where do we go from here? The answer resides in its residents and business owners. Engage with VisionFH!