Letters to the editor for Oct. 19, 2003

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Public process

Thursday, Ken Brenner, on behalf of the Routt County Planning Commission, urged the city Planning Commission to recommend to the City Council to appoint a "growth management commission."

The purpose of the commission will be to fully air the contentious issue of growth management mechanisms and return to the council with a recommendation for what, if anything, to addend to the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan Update, which already will have been adopted by the time the commission finishes its work.

The action of Brenner and the county Planning Commission is significant because, as a result of City Council and county commissioner action last July, the Sept. 10 Public Review Draft of the update states, "The community does not intend to impose restrictions on the rate of growth."

The July 8 decision to remove a rate of growth mechanism was made in the face of recent surveys that indicate a more than passing interest in the issue -- on both sides and everywhere in between -- among residents in the community. Thus, the reaction to that decision was predictably fierce.

On Oct. 14, City Council took a step back. Council members voted to establish the growth commission. By this laudable action, the council wisely allows the plan update to move forward while giving the community time to vet the issue of growth management.

I am hopeful that this community will seize and embrace this opportunity.

First, encourage the council to practice servant leadership and help this commission form out of the community.

Second, put collaboration into practice: Invite the stakeholders to the table, even if that means building a bigger table. Keep them there no matter how uncomfortable the early meetings might be. Reach out to the public through neighborhood meetings and whatever other facilitative means that maximize resident participation. And be willing and open to doing things differently with the goal and expectation of achieving a different result.

Employing some of the core elements that made processes such as the 10+2 Committee and the 1995 community plan successful and focusing on the integrity of the public process may enable our community to achieve break-through results, confronting an ongoing, highly controversial issue with deference and respect and arriving at a consensus-based decision that puts our collective commitment to the public interest first.

Good results rarely come without good process. The council, with the urging of the county and city Planning Commissions, has afforded us the opportunity to practice good public process. It will be worth the effort.

Townsend H. Anderson

Steamboat Springs

Plan clarification

In response to recent newspaper articles and public comment regarding the public process used for the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan Update, I would like to provide the following points of clarification.

The update process started with the basic assumption that the 1995 plan was still valid, and that this planning process was truly an update to a valid, community-driven plan. Continued growth and economic development during the past decade piqued the community's interest in updating the plan and policies related to growth and development. A broad range of planning issues created the need for the plan update. These issues include:

n The rapid population growth and changing economic and social conditions within the Valley;

n A need to bring the 1995 Future Land Use Plan and policies up to date and in line with recent area plans;

n Interest in continuing to have the city and county governments work together to jointly address planning issues; and

n A desire to expand the plan to cover additional topics of interest to the community, such as growth management, economic development and sustainability, and capital facilities.

While this planning process has resulted in a document that looks different in form from the 1995 plan, the 2003 plan carries forward most of the themes of the 1995 plan.

This is very important to mention, because the 1995 plan varied from traditional comprehensive planning processes because it focused on identifying community values and translating those desires into a "preferred" direction that could be achieved through specific actions. This "preferred direction" is the community's long-term vision, and it is the vision from which the 2003 plan derives its goals and policies. Because the community vision created in 1995 is a valid and accepted community vision, there was no need to go through a visioning process as in 1995. Therefore, the planning process for the 2003 plan differed slightly from the 1995 planning process.

The 2003 plan update process began in November 2001 at a community forum designed to identify and define the issues to be addressed. More than 100 community members volunteered their time at this meeting and were organized to form the working groups that helped shape the direction of the update.

These working groups, made up of residents and community stakeholders, met throughout the planning process to set direction for the update. The working groups defined the vision statements and issues, reviewed and provided recommended approaches, reviewed the key choices, and provided direction on the policies of this plan.

In an effort to ensure the direction provided by the working groups represented the sentiment of the community, the city and county hosted a number of public open houses designed to provide opportunities for review, comment, and input to the stages and draft components of the community plan.

The city and county encourage community members to continue to provide feedback on the draft plan to ensure it remains a community plan, and not an elected officials plan.

Tom Leeson

City of Steamboat Springs

senior planner

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