Duncanville’s City Planner Chasidy Allen Benson and Planning Technician Athena Seaton were all smiles at a recent interview. The City of Champions has been certified a Scenic City for the first time. A reception to present 13 municipalities from across the state with their Scenic City Certification awards will be held October 11 in Fort Worth, during the Texas Municipal League’s Annual Conference week.
Duncanville’s Comprehensive Master Plan in 2015 created the city’s first Planning Division. Since then, Benson said they have been working toward gaining this important certification. She said they are planning now to keep moving Duncanville, certified at the Bronze Level in 2018, up to even higher levels.
The state’s Scenic City Certification Program recognizes Texas municipalities that implement high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and public spaces. The Scenic City Certification Program provides a proven, highly-regarded tool to Texas cities for assessment, evaluation and recognition of infrastructure standards. Any city in Texas may apply to the Scenic City Certification Program for an objective, points based review of existing municipal infrastructure ordinances. Every application receives a score sheet evaluation; cities that score at the upper level and demonstrate a landscaping/tree planting program, on-premise sign regulations and prohibition of new billboards may earn Certified Scenic City designation.
The Scenic City Certification Program is the only program of its kind in the United States to devise a comprehensive set of model standards for the design and development of public roadways and public spaces into one evaluation program.
Chasidy Allen Benson has worked for Duncanville Public Works Department as City Planner since 2015, assisting them in developing the first Comprehensive Plan. She has over 15 years of planning and zoning experience with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of local government ordinances and codes. She is a Certified Planner from the American Institute of Certified Planners and is the staff liaison for the Planning and Zoning Commission. Benson has extensive municipal government experience having worked for Garland, Arlington and Mansfield. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Texas A&M University. Continuing her professional education, she received a Master’s of City & Regional Planning from the University of Texas-Arlington.
Benson said their efforts to gain Scenic City certification were aided by other city staff and departments, with information provided by Parks and Recreation, Building Inspection, Planning and Zoning, Code Enforcement, and other departments. She pointed to some of the benefits of participating in the Scenic City Certification program, such as enhancing economic development efforts, providing expert evaluation of existing standards, and fostering community character and civic pride.
“Cleanliness is a big factor in receiving Scenic City Certification,” Benson said, “and we are graded on such things as picking up litter. Points are awarded not just on what we’ve already got in place, but what we are planning for the future, especially with parks and trails. The fact that we have an active Keep Duncanville Beautiful organization is also a plus factor.”
Other Best Southwest cities who have received Scenic City certifications include Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Mansfield, and Waxahachie, all at the gold level. Platinum is the highest level in Scenic City certification.
“Through the Scenic City Certification Program, cities access a low cost, high rate-of-return diagnostic tool,” said Anne Culver, executive vice president of Scenic Texas. “The detailed 360° evaluation of existing infrastructure standards supplies cities with a roadmap for future growth and development. We are pleased so many municipalities participated this year, earning either first-time certification or re-certification.”
Joining Scenic Texas as partners in the Scenic City Certification Program are the Texas Municipal League, Urban Land Institute – Austin, Urban Land Institute – Houston, Urban Land Institute – San Antonio, American Planning Association Texas, Houston-Galveston Area Council, American Council of Engineering Companies Houston, Hill Country Alliance, Keep Texas Beautiful, Texas Downtown Association, Texas Economic Development Council, Texas Historical Commission, North Central Texas Council of Governments, Scenic Houston and Scenic America.