Planning at the Grass Roots Level: The Guilford County Citizen Participation Program Public Deposited

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  • Price, Charles F.
    • Other Affiliation: Linton & Company, Inc., Resource Management Consultants, Washington, DC; Former Director of Planning, Guilford County, NC
  • Historically, local governments in this country have focused their programs and priorities almost exclusively on urban areas, where population, resources, and problems are most concentrated. Rural dwellers, by contrast, have been avoided by planners and other officials, their needs being left to such rural-oriented agencies as the Agricultural Extension Service. In the late summer of 1973, Guilford County Government and its citizens broke that tradition. Stimulated primarily by the need to dampen citizen dissatisfaction with land use regulations, the County Government set out to organize the citizens of its rural and suburban areas around community defined issues and problems. What has resulted is a community organization directly involving the citizens of Guilford County. Among their accomplishments to date have been the formation of a summer recreation program, a rural garbage collection study, a rural-suburban land use committee, and a citizen's budget committee. Prior to this effort, "citizen input" into the planning process of Guilford County came only through such conventional arrangements as public hearings on specific proposals, routine board or commission meetings, political representation, or the electoral process. As it was implemented in 1973, the "Community Councils Program" was a significant departure from this norm, because, one, it was non-urban in focus; two, its base was grass-roots community organization rather than individually oriented; and three, it attempted to involve organized county residents early in the planning stages of both short and long-range governmental decisions. Moreover, as a form of decentralization of political power toward the "county-wide" community and toward the local communities, its conceptualization and practice were a far cry from the rubber-stamp public hearing, the hand-picked board or commission, or the infrequent ritual of selecting remote decision-makers through the electoral process.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Article
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
Journal title
  • Carolina Planning Journal
Journal volume
  • 2
Journal issue
  • 2
Page start
  • 27
Page end
  • 33
  • English
Digital collection
  • Carolina Planning Journal
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