Since our founding in 1982, Benchmark Planning’s dynamic leadership in the field of urban planning and design has helped our client communities achieve their aspirations through an approach that is best described as the ART + SCIENCE OF PLANNING - a philosophy which blends our creative talent with the practical application of our technical expertise.
Jason Epley, AICP
A graduate of Clemson University's Master of City and Regional Planning program, Mr. Epley brings nearly 30 years of national experience in the planning profession to Benchmark’s consulting team. Jason has led a wide variety and complexity of consulting projects at Benchmark for more than 16 years, taking on the role of president in 2014. Under his leadership, Benchmark has expanded its consulting services across 12 states, helping local governments prepare for the future through community-supported plans based on a firm foundation of traditional and innovative planning practices. Jason’s past positions have included working with municipal, county, regional, and state government planning programs in North and South Carolina. He specializes in land use and comprehensive planning, economic development, urban design, community engagement, and meeting facilitation. Jason brings additional expertise and experience with downtown development and design and currently serves in the role of Executive Director of the North Carolina Downtown Development Association.
Vagn Hansen, AICP
Director of Planning
Mr. Hansen brings 20 years of experience in the planning profession to the consulting team. He has professional experience as a local government planner with both large and small municipalities, as a consultant for the NC Department of Commerce, and has been in private practice for the last 15 years with Benchmark. Mr. Hansen specializes in comprehensive planning, economic development, military land use compatibility planning, land use regulations, and geographic information systems (GIS). A primary focus of his practice is performing complex spatial analyses to help local governments make informed decisions on land use, infrastructure, and related growth management policies. In addition to his consulting practice, Mr. Hansen has supervised municipal planning and zoning administration services for several of Benchmark’s client communities in North Carolina and South Carolina over the years, including the municipalities of Aiken, Harrisburg, Mount Pleasant, Midway, and Wesley Chapel.
Director of Urban Design
Dan brings over 30 years of national and international experience to our clients' projects, highlighted by his leadership in revitalizing downtown Raleigh in the 2000s, where he served as the founding director of Raleigh’s Urban Design Center. While with the Urban Design Center, Dan led the city’s strategic planning effort that leveraged over $3.5 billion in downtown investment. As Benchmark's Director of Urban Design, Dan's practice is focused on center city development, downtown master planning, and urban corridor redevelopment projects. He has led successful master plans, redevelopment plans, and feasibility studies for a number of communities with major universities in North Carolina, including Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Elon, and strong tourism-based economies, including recent work in Myrtle Beach, SC, and Wilmington, NC. In addition to his work in growing urban areas, Dan has a commitment to helping small towns find ways to move forward with improving their downtowns, a passion he developed working with rural communities across South Carolina while completing his degrees in architecture and city and regional planning at Clemson University.
Bridget Callea, AICP
Ms. Callea joined Benchmark Planning in June of 2019. Prior to joining Benchmark, Ms. Callea was a planner with WGI, a national design firm in the public and private infrastructure markets. Ms. Callea holds a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University, where she received the APA-FL Chapter Outstanding Planning Student of the Year, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architectural Studies from Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. Ms. Callea specializes in comprehensive planning, transportation planning, and urban design, assisting the Benchmark Planning team with meeting facilitation, background research, plan illustration, GIS mapping, and related project tasks. In addition, Ms. Callea leads the firm's technical research and data collection efforts, ensuring that the community engagement process in our client communities is supported by a firm foundation of background information and analysis. This foundation of information helps ensure that our plans are grounded in reality.
Monika Gehl, AICP
Ms. Gehl joined Benchmark Planning in June of 2017 after receiving her Bachelor's of Urban and Environmental Planning and Bachelor’s in Global Studies: Environment and Sustainability from the University of Virginia, School of Architecture. While with Benchmark, Monika earned a master's degree in community and regional planning from the University of Texas. In addition to her work with Benchmark, Ms. Gehl worked with the Piedmont Development Group, where she assisted with a variety of development applications and entitlements, technical writing, and project illustrations. Ms. Gehl’s greatest contribution to the Benchmark team is her exceptional ability to prepare high-quality graphics and illustrations that effectively communicate complex planning and development concepts for our clients. Whether preparing site plans depicting alternative development scenarios or 3D renderings of a downtown block, her combination of practical planning knowledge, technical skill, and artistic ability provides our client communities with a firm understanding of each project’s vision.
Kris Krider, AICP
Mr. Krider brings more than 30 years of national public and private planning and design experience to the Benchmark team. A member of the Benchmark team since 2011, Kris currently directs the Urban Design and Research Division in the Arlington County, Virginia Planning Department while continuing his role as a senior advisor for Benchmark on urban design and sustainable growth. Prior to joining Benchmark, Kris served as the Planning Director in the Town of Davidson, North Carolina where he led a number of high-profile urban design projects, including the planning and development of the Griffith Street corridor at Exit 30 on Interstate 77, and numerous downtown development projects in the town’s historic business district, which is also home to Davidson College. Prior to his tenure in Davidson, Mr. Krider served as Senior Urban Designer for two nationally recognized design firms in San Francisco after receiving his graduate training in architecture from the University of California - Berkeley.
Mr. Goodall has 14 years of experience in local government planning and zoning administration. His experience includes comprehensive planning, zoning administration and enforcement, floodplain administration, subdivision administration, and geographic information system analysis. Prior to joining Benchmark, Mr. Goodall served both as a county and municipal planner for Rowan County and China Grove where he was responsible for facilitating current and long-range planning duties, including the Rowan County Eastern and Western Area Land Use Plans. Currently, Mr. Goodall serves as the Director of Planning and Development for the City of Mount Airy, as well as the Town Planner for the Town of Pilot Mountain under Benchmark's privatized contract with each jurisdiction.
Following a long career in marketing and advertising, Ms. Studnicki has followed her passion in the field of urban planning. After serving on several community boards over the last five years, including a downtown development association, and a planning board, Ms. Studnicki is now applying those skills as a planner in Mount Airy under Benchmark's privatized contract with the City. Jeannie's primary responsibilities include zoning administration, general planning assistance, and serving as the key staff for the Mount Airy Historic Preservation Commission.
Learn more about our projects!
Take a look at some of our comprehensive planning, downtown, economic development, urban design, and other projects that we have completed in partnership with our client communities over the years.