City officials are close to approving a final draft of an update of the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. However, unless they strengthen community support to the proposed changes, this could be another sequel that doesn't live up to standards set by the original.
When the original community plan was adopted eight years ago, its approval came after an exhaustive process involving more than a year and a half of work and roughly 60 public meetings. The final product was the result of substantial involvement of many residents and because of this, the final product was something the community took ownership of.
Since its completion in 1995, planners and elected officials repeatedly have turned to the plan, and the direction and philosophy contained in it, to aid their decisions on growth and development issues. In doing so, they have had confidence that their decisions accurately represented the community's desires -- their constituents' desires -- for the future shape of the Steamboat Springs area.
That may not be the case this time around.
More than 100 residents volunteered for various working groups used in the update process, but this update has a more bureaucratic feel than its predecessor, as if it's in the hands of planners and consultants rather than community members.
It may be because community members outside the working groups don't feel they've had reasonable opportunities to comment on the plan, or it may be the public has been worked into apathy by being repeatedly tapped -- and, possibly. repeatedly ignored -- for various other bureaucratic efforts. Either way, the result is the same: The plan is at risk of failing to accurately reflect the public's wishes.
Already, the recently released final draft has been criticized by some as ignoring previous community input on issues such as growth control. And, at their meeting last week, members of the county Planning Commission called the update process "rushed" and wondered whether those leading it had adequately tapped community resources.
If the document goes forward surrounded by questions about whether it is an accurate representation of the community's desires, Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials will find themselves turning to an influential document with unconvincing foundations.
That does not have to happen, however.
Residents still have opportunities to have their voices heard, and one of those opportunities comes today. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the draft plan, maps and presentation boards will be on display in the lobby of Centennial Hall. At 7 p.m., a community forum will be held to gather public input on the final draft of the plan.
Take the time to stop by city hall on your lunch hour, see what is being proposed in the update, and take note of the areas you support or oppose. Then offer your comments at the evening meeting.
Now is the time to make sure the update is truly a community plan.