Indiana Chapter - American Planning Association

Stellar Communities Program Offers More Than Financial Benefits

Posted on April 6th, by Aletha Dunston, AICP in Comprehensive Planning. No Comments

Stellar Communities logo

Indiana’s Stellar Communities Program is a dream come true for planners. Although it has the opportunity to inspire millions of dollars in investment in your community – Stellar is more than a grant. Stellar is a designation bestowed upon two communities each year by a collection of state agencies that pool resources to assist communities in achieving their long-term comprehensive strategic goals for targeted areas of their community.

  • Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA)
  • Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA)
  • Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)

Since its inception, 6 pilot communities have been recognized and elevated to a status of non-competitive funding for 3 program years.

  • 2011: North Vernon and Greencastle
  • 2012: Princeton and Delphi
  • 2013: Richmond and Bedford

According to the OCRA website, over 60 Hoosier communities have expressed interest in the program since 2010 and 21 strategic investment plans have been created. To be considered, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Open to incorporated Indiana communities of any size that are not entitled to direct CDBG funding through U.S. HUD
  • Must have a recent comprehensive plan (within 5-7 years)
  • Must have documented and demonstrated capacity to complete proposed activities—including the ability to submit a response to a request for proposal

Letters of interest were collected from 14 communities in early 2014. Six communities have been short-listed and invited to prepare strategic investment plans to be considered for the designation. Our community’s participation in the Stellar program has been a year-round conversation reaching into all sectors of the community. Although we have yet to be selected as a final recipient, our four year Stellar journey has been one of the most rewarding planning experiences in my 7 years as Planning Director.

Regardless of the outcome, I will urge my community to continue participating in this program. Because of the reach and scale of the program, interest in the plan and passion for our downtown has grown in the community each year. We continue to see new faces at the table and multiple agencies use the plan to inform small and large scale decisions locally. The Stellar carrot has been the key to keeping the plan on the desk – rather than on the shelf.

I strongly urge planners in eligible communities to research if this program is the right fit for you. Now is a great time to start the conversation and begin building your coalition. For more information, contact your OCRA liaison or visit: OCRA: Stellar Communities.

Happy Planning!

Aletha Dunston, AICP

APA-IN Central Region Representative

Director of Planning, Marion IN

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