BIG Picture plan addresses historic growth, quality-of-life needs

single-meta-cal October 21, 2022

Why is it important for citizens to engage in the City of Huntsville’s BIG Picture process? For Dennis Madsen, the answer is pretty straightforward.

“Input shapes policy, and policy shapes growth,” he said.

When The BIG Picture launched five years ago, public input helped inform revitalization efforts at Ditto Landing, John Hunt Park (and parks in general), our greenway network and downtown. Madsen, Huntsville’s Manager of Urban and Long-Range Planning, said it also impacted community-oriented redevelopment such as the Sandra Moon Complex, Robert Shurney Legacy Center and Jaguar Hills.

“We know that with intentional planning and smart infrastructure investment, we can handle all this coming growth – heck, we’ve done it before,” he said. “Some of our longer-tenured residents might remember the huge influx of people during the 60s and 70s. In less than a decade, Huntsville quadrupled in population. If we can handle that kind of growth, we can absolutely deal with our current challenges.”

Citizens view maps during a BIG Picture public input session.

Re-engaging the public

In July, the City’s Planning Department kicked off a monthslong educational campaign to provide a snapshot of The BIG Picture and where Huntsville’s heading. The plan, available for viewing at, takes a far-reaching look at what the Rocket City may look like in 5, 10, 15 years and beyond.

With Huntsville now the largest City in Alabama, there’s never been a better time to re-examine The BIG Picture as we manage growth in a thoughtful, measured way.

Madsen said public comments have focused on a couple of areas so far:

  • A mix of excitement about the quality of growth and staying ahead of the impacts of growth. Concerns revolve mostly around transportation and housing.
  • Appreciation for the City’s quality-of-life investments, and a push for more. Citizens enjoy our parks and greenways and facilities like The Orion, but want to see more preservation of open space and bike and greenway connections.

More to come

In addition to planning public updates on the greenway network plan, the City is working through several other planning projects, including new regulations that will encourage more mixed-use development along main corridors and zoning updates to allow for more diversity in housing.

We’re also conducting two transit studies to look at service upgrades within the City of Huntsville, as well as how to implement regional transit. An updated plan for environmental sustainability as well as an economic development study for the Meridian corridor are also underway.

“There’s lots to be excited about,” Madsen said.

Join the conversation about smart growth by visiting our website, contacting us and following our Facebook page for updates.