Conservation Matters August 2013

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

New Texas Coastal Citizen Planner program to start Sept. 25

Starting in September, coastal community officials can turn to a new training program for local planning and development issues.

The Texas Coastal Citizen Planner is an eight-course program that covers trends and best practices concerning community planning and development, designed specifically for local and appointed officials, according to Steven Mikulencak, coordinator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Coastal Watershed Program.

The evening courses will be held Sept. 25 through early December in the Houston-Galveston and the Corpus Christi areas, Mikulencak said. The registration fee is $100 until Sept. 18 and then is $125. Information, registration and a course calendar are available at

“Local officials may enter public life with an ethic of service, but they may lack the planning know-how to turn a community’s vision and plan into reality,” Mikulencak said. “This program is designed to address that knowledge gap.”

A range of legal authorities and planning practices are available to Texas communities, he said, and the course will provide a comprehensive overview of options available. Instructors from several disciplines will lead each course and offer Texas-based case studies of planning-in-action. Course time will be dedicated to fostering peer-based learning.

“The need for a program like this in Texas is pretty obvious,” said Councilwoman Joanna Sharp Dawson of League City. “In the Houston region alone, hundreds of locally elected officials are sworn into office every election cycle.”

Dawson and an advisory committee of 11 other local officials, university researchers and planners have been helping to shape the new Texas program, Mikulencak said.

Officials and city staff juggle numerous local duties such as working with the public to create plans, he said. Local governments then use these plans to adopt policies and guide decision-making on specific proposals about land use, natural resources and economic redevelopment. Local governments also review site plan proposals submitted by developers to make sure they conform to local laws.

“These planning decisions can have significant long-term impacts, shaping how fast communities grow and the quality of development,” Mikulencak added. “Regional trends in public health, water usage, land conservation and post-disaster recovery costs hinge on decisions made at the local level. These decisions also offer opportunities and challenges that local officials may be unaware of when coming into office.”

The program is administered as a joint project of AgriLife Extension, Texas Sea Grant and the Texas Coastal Watershed Program.

For more information, read the full AgriLife TODAY article, see or contact Mikulencak at

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