Centennial’s recently approved comprehensive plan, titled Centennial NEXT, provides a “clear path and vision” for the next 20-plus years, according to the city’s principal planner, Jenny Houlne.
The most discussed topic, related to the plan, was accessory dwelling units, said Houlne, who managed the development of Centennial NEXT. Accessory dwelling units are “mother-in-law” apartments or suites adjacent to one’s home. They can be a separate building or just be a separate entrance to a home.
Houlne, who has both an undergraduate and a master’s degree in planning, is a hometown girl, having grown up in Aurora, where her family still lives. She received her undergraduate degree in 2007, and her advanced degree in 2009. Originally, when she first started college, Houlne was interested in architecture. Then, she was introduced to planning and had an immediate affinity for it.
When she first started her career, she was a military planner, working at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Houlne noted that it was definitely time for the city to evaluate and update its comprehensive plan. “We couldn’t leave the old (2004) plan in place,” she said. Centennial NEXT provides a “clear path and vision” to the future. An additional year was added to the development of the plan to extend opportunities for community feedback.
“The extra year was good for our plan,” she said. Centennial NEXT has been “well received.” She noted that the city has changed significantly in the 17 years since its creation. “We have added 2.57 square miles to the city. This new plan is supposed to be forward-thinking until the year 2040. We will, however, review it every two to three years, and we could make changes, adding or deleting, as needed.”
One gap in the 2004 plan is there was no provision for “workforce housing,” she said. “We hope there will be some workforce housing in redevelopment areas, perhaps when some of the older shopping centers are redeveloped.”
In Centennial, the planning and zoning commission is the body that adopts the plan, with ratification by the city council.
There was an advisory committee for Centennial NEXT, Houlne said. It was made up of four members of the city council and four members of the planning and zoning commission. In addition, CenCON, which is made up of representatives from each neighborhood in the city, served on the advisory committee as well as members from the Aurora Chamber and South Metro Denver Chamber.
Houlne started with the city in August 2014. She has three children, including 2-year-old twins.
The city reached out “to thousands of its residents” to get input about the new plan, she noted, adding that it is “challenging for people to think that far into the future,” to consider what Centennial will look like in the year 2040.
“As a whole,” there was support in the city for this plan, she said. She is happy that the city “went to the public and did research, talking through what we heard from our community.”
Once a complete plan was in place, and the city council, along with the planning and zoning commission, could see the entire future, it was easier to understand and see what’s next for the city. Overall the plan addresses many of the “missing links,” that were identified before the adoption of Centennial NEXT. “We want the trails to all connect, and once they do, this city will be much safer,” she said.
For more information about Centennial NEXT or the planning department, call the City of Centennial at 303-325-8000.
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