Plano is one of just two cities in Texas to earn a 4-STAR Community Rating for Sustainability. Austin is the other.
The designation was earned after a lengthy process measured 44 objectives falling within seven categories. The assessment evaluates everything from how safe residents feel, how successful schools are, how fast emergency response times are, to workforce readiness, housing affordability, and civic engagement.
Plano City Manager Bruce Glasscock said, “We were named as one of the healthiest places to live in America. I think the advantage of something like this [4-STAR rating] is, it reinforces and adds more credibility to that.”
He commented that this is great for Plano citizens, and it bodes well for the city’s economic future. “This is part of our economic development driver,” he said. “Companies I am talking to are looking at what we have to offer our citizens. So that equates to them, what do we have to offer their employees?”
Heather Merchant, Sustainability and Environmental Education Manager, spearheaded this effort. She explained that to get the 4-STAR rating, the city had to earn a minimum of 400 points, with the maximum amount of points being 600. Plano came in with 431.6 points.
The only two cities in the country that have earned 5-STAR ratings are Seattle, Washington, and Northampton, Massachusetts.
Merchant explained, “One of the reasons why it’s important that we went through this process is that the STAR Community Rating is a continuous improvement process. We have established a baseline for where we are—we’ve seen areas of strengths and areas of opportunity. It allows us to now prioritize and think about areas that we want to continue to focus on, and new areas that we want to move into.”
She added, “One of the things that we did find in the assessment is that we have a lot of best practices that we are doing, and some of them we don’t have documented. So we couldn’t get credit because we couldn’t upload a plan, a policy, or ordinance. And so this will give us an opportunity to decide if we want to document things along the way.
“Another reason why the process is important is, it gives us a really good platform for fostering public-private partnerships and for working together in the future.”
The rating is valid for three years. After that, if the city wants to maintain it, they will undergo the assessment process again.
Director of Environmental Health Rachel Patterson commented, “Any decisions we make as a city are going to affect a lot of people. It’s going to affect our economy, our environment, and health. A sustainable community is one that looks at the needs for the present, but also looks down the road. We must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
“It ensures that the economy is strong, and that our land and resources are used and treated responsibly. That we have parks, open spaces are abundant, and there is equal access to these resources in the community; that educational opportunities are plentiful, and people can live, work and play in a safe, healthy way.”
Patterson concluded her comments with a quote: “‘A sustainable community is one that can continue
in a healthy way into an uncertain future.’ That’s where we want to be.”
Notable achievements that led to Plano’s 4-STAR Community Rating for Sustainability
- 83 parks cover more than 4,243 acres
- 399 new businesses were created in the past 3 years
- 90% of the residents live within one mile of a community venue
- 90%+ of third-graders meet or exceed reading proficiency
- The Plano Independent School District has a 96.3% high school graduation rate
- Top performer in health indicators
- Fire Department earned a Class 1 rating by ISO