News / Data-Driven Caroline Richardson Connects the Pieces of Planning

October 21st / 2020


Data-Driven Caroline Richardson Connects the Pieces of Planning

Caroline Richardson combines her personal skills with data-driven expertise to achieve the best outcomes for local communities. Her experiences in the public, private, and non-profit sectors contribute to her appreciation for public engagement and the ability to bring diverse groups together.

Shaping the Region through Data and Analysis

Since joining Stewart’s Municipal Planning team in 2019, Caroline has become the go-to for all things data. Caroline’s technical strengths include GIS (geographical information system) mapping, research and analysis, writing, and plan review. Her analytical skills complement her responsibilities at the firm, in which she provides:

  • unified development ordinance updates;
  • legislative updates to North Carolina and South Carolina municipality codes; and
  • long-range planning, consisting of comprehensive documents and small area plans.

“Writing reports is like putting a puzzle together,” she enthuses. “It’s like being a detective and combining different elements to find out what you have to do.”

Her research-focused work also involves enforcing zoning regulations established by local governments. While Caroline writes descriptions for zones and districts, she works closely with local governments to create documents they can use and implement.

Creating the City You Want

Stewart’s Municipal Planning team provides comprehensive planning services for small- and mid-sized communities. For example, if you want to build on a specific street or in a particular neighborhood, Caroline can advise you on:

  • how far you have to be from the right of way of a state-owned sidewalk;
  • the number of accessory units allowed;
  • the street width and if it needs to have a curb and gutter;
  • the height of your proposed building; and
  • which residential foundation type will work for your project.

I want to be the one who is shaping the community.

Caroline’s superpower is zoning and code writing. She employs GIS to pull data on boundaries, points of interest, and river shapes—compiling novel layers of information to create various planning options. Through statistical analysis, she can find the average median income for all North Carolina counties or discern property data points via aerial views and 3D renderings.

Making Better Future Decisions

Public engagement is a major aspect of planning. Successful public facilitation results in effective outreach that empowers citizens. “I enjoy educating people and explaining what these planning documents mean for their community,” Caroline explains. “Communities are helping themselves, and it’s nice to see when people ‘get it.’ ”

Citizens who recognize planning’s social impact derive a sense of ownership over their land, community, and relationship with development. This knowledge allows towns to make better future decisions.

Work that Makes a Difference

City of Eden, NC

Caroline wrote the unified development ordinance code for the City of Eden. Their small planning department was grateful and excited about the project and Stewart’s involvement. The Eden staff possesses a deep knowledge of the community and knows it intimately. “Eden is a smaller community with challenges. It’s fun helping them figure out how to ameliorate their issues.”

Alamance County, NC

Stewart’s work with Alamance County demonstrates the firm’s swift adaptability in the midst of change. When the project began in 2019, public engagement was facilitated in person. However, in March 2020, with the rise of COVID-19, Stewart successfully pivoted to virtual meetings, videos, and socially-distant public gatherings. The use of digital technology allowed Stewart to stay ahead of the curve and maintain important communication lines with the county. Caroline recounts, “I’m really proud of how adaptable the team was.”

Finding the Vision

“Working in planning at Stewart was a really good move for me,” Caroline recollects. “We care about the communities we’re working in. We have a feel for the environment because we go there.”

Former mentors and current colleagues helped Caroline find the vision for her career path. “We [at Stewart] have so many different talents, and we all make it work.” Witnessing the motivation and diligence amongst her coworkers confirms Caroline’s decision to pursue planning. “We’re happy to help each other, and innovation is encouraged,” she insists. “[The leadership] wants us to get better. It’s about what will lift us. Less competition, more collaboration. “

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