Firm Profile

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.



More About Our Team

Headquartered in Charlotte, the Benchmark team has a national planning practice that is focused on comprehensive planning, urban design, public engagement, land use regulation, downtown development, and military community planning. Our talented team of planners has a breadth of experience that provides our clients with the innovative ideas and solutions that are necessary to solve complex problems and develop plans that are grounded in reality and focused on implementation.

Jason Epley, AICP

A graduate of Clemson University's Master of City and Regional Planning program, Mr. Epley brings 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 17 years, taking on the role of president in 2014. Under his leadership, Benchmark has expanded its consulting services across 14 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 16 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. 

Dan Douglas
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
Urban Designer

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.

Emily Hines

Emily brings over 20 years of local government planning experience in the public and private sectors to our consulting team. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Community and Rural Development from Clemson University and has worked throughout North and South Carolina.  Over her career, Emily has provided leadership in the delivery of planning and zoning administration services for ten municipal and county jurisdictions, including fast-growing Iredell County and the City of Kannapolis. In addition to her extensive experience in current planning, Emily has prepared a variety of long-range planning studies and has written a number of zoning, subdivision, and related development ordinances. In addition, she has experience working with community development block grant programs and code enforcement initiatives in urban and rural settings. Today, Emily directs planning administration services for two of Benchmark’s client communities and contributes to our consulting projects, including development regulations and comprehensive plans. 

Kris Krider, AICP
Senior Associate

Mr. Krider brings over 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 Section in the Arlington County, Virginia Planning Department while continuing his role as a senior advisor for Benchmark on urban design and sustainable growth. Kris has recently led highly complex urban design projects in Arlington, including design review of the Amazon HQ2 development, sector plans for Clarendon and Courthouse transit-oriented development areas and numerous placemaking plans.  Kris volunteers as the chair-elect for the Urban Design and Preservation Division of the American Planning Association organizing and leading several initiatives including pro-bono revitalization workshops in Missouri and North Miami.  Prior to joining Benchmark, Kris served as the Planning Director in the Town of Davidson, North Carolina where he led several high-profile projects, including the planning and development of the Griffith Street corridor at Exit 30 on Interstate 77, the Comprehensive Plan and numerous downtown development projects in the town’s historic business district, which is also home to Davidson College.  Mr. Krider also 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.


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. 

Our Projects