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Thread: Cart before the horse - "community vision" in Pagosa Springs, Colorado

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Cart before the horse - "community vision" in Pagosa Springs, Colorado

    Pagosa Springs is a small town located high in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. The only incorporated town in Archuleta County (pop 11,000) the town is located 60-miles east of Durango, CO. The Town has zoning, but the County does not.

    The area is amazingly picturesque - consisting of a town nestled in a fairly open valley with the Continental Divide forming the northern and eastern views. Tourists, real estate and wildlife (hunting) drive the economy. Large animal freely roam the countryside, wildlife abounds. It is clean, quiet and 5 1/2 hours from any major metro area.


    Pagosa Springs is undergoing a growth spurt as it has become “discovered” by retirees, wilderness lovers and second homeowners. (Another topic thread, I'm sure!)

    Recently, a “Community Vision Council (CVC),” was formed by a “local committee of concerned residents.” The CVC consists of a local property owner (more on this later,) the Town Mayor, a Realtor and others. For more background see:

    www.communityvisioncouncil.org
    www.pagosa.com/1204/local/cvc1.htm
    www.pagosa.com/1204/local/cvc2.htm
    www.pagosa.com/1204/local/cvc3.htm

    The CVCs stated goal is:

    "Given the inevitability of increased growth to the area, the Community Vision Council recognizes the need to guide growth in a way that preserves the intrinsic qualities of Pagosa Springs. Through a combination of positioning and planning strategies, The CVC seeks to encourage a healthy economy while sustaining the unspoiled natural environment of the region and a vibrant and diverse community."
    The CVC has hired a planning firm, Hart Howerton, to develop a Conceptual Master Plan for the downtown area. Based upon these studies and the goals of the group, the Council determined that there were three areas of priority that required immediate action:
    1) development of a Master Plan for the downtown area;
    2) market research; and
    3) determining an appropriate organizational structure to facilitate communication between the various entities in our community.
    The CVC produced a LOT of beautiful illustrations showing the CVC vision of how downtown Pagosa might look. (See www.pagosa.com/1204/local/cvc1.htm for the illustrations.) The “Conceptual Master Plan for Pagosa Springs” was presented (sprung is more like it) fully formed upon the citizens of Pagosa at a series of public meetings (see the pagosa.com links above for details.)

    Ah, here is what I mean about the “Cart before the horse” – the Conceptual Master Plan was presented to the public fully formed to the CVCs vision of what the downtown area should look like – and was presented as “Conceptual” but upon close examination some found some radical changes to “their” downtown, that just happen to benefit a local landowner – the co-chair of the project.

    See, the CVC is co-chaired by the Town Major and a Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown has been slowly buying up properties in the core downtown area and many of these properties had radically different uses (Hotels, etc) under the “conceptual” plan. Nothing wrong with Capitalism, right? Grow is going to happen – might as well guide it – right? It seemed to many of the public citizens in attendance that there was a lot of marketing and "branding" in the conceptual plan. The CVC envisioned a "Town in a National Park setting, like Yellowstone, etc."

    The crux of this post is this – (and really, you have to read the stories at the links above to grasp the entirety of the situation) – it seems to this poor Planner that if you are going to have a “COMMUNITY” vision, that the community should be involved from the beginning, and not included as an after thought. Now, I am sure that Mr. Brown is totally honorable in his intentions, and cares about the Town and area. He owns several thousand acres in the area and want to make it nice. But, is the cart before the horse here, or what?


    PS – Pagosa Springs has several other very interesting planning problems, such as the start of a “zoning code” for the County, having a development company from southern California come in and buy every single available lot under a certain price in the “core” area (outside of Town limits….) Respond if you want to hear more……or just check out www.pagosa.com or www.planetpagosa.com
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Off Width
    1) development of a Master Plan for the downtown area;
    2) market research; and
    3) determining an appropriate organizational structure to facilitate communication between the various entities in our community.

    Ah, here is what I mean about the “Cart before the horse” – the Conceptual Master Plan was presented to the public fully formed to the CVCs vision of what the downtown area should look like – and was presented as “Conceptual” but upon close examination some found some radical changes to “their” downtown, that just happen to benefit a local landowner – the co-chair of the project.
    I would say the place where the cart is before the horse is that "market research" is their SECOND goal and "develop a Master Plan" is their first. Shouldn't that be the other way around? I have great dreams of fighting my county's rail plan, where the cities got together and decided "who" would get a new rail station, and THEN hired a firm to figure out the best spots for the new rail station. What good is that kind of "research"?

    Your second point -- about the local landowner -- is more like "conflict of interest" or, perhaps, "corruption".

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Your second point -- about the local landowner -- is more like "conflict of interest" or, perhaps, "corruption".
    One would think that a plan put forth as a "community" plan would be for the good of the the "community" - and not the main stakeholder - the one who is promoting the plan.

    At least they come out and say that it is starting point and has to go to a public hearing process through the Town before being adopted as the "General Plan!"

    If nothing else, this plan has stirred the pot and gotten the citizens to pay attention to what is happening....
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    It is a psychological truism that people tend to promote "solutions" which unfairly benefit themselves. It isn't necessarily even conscious. It can be more like, um, a subconscious generalization that because something is good for you, it is good for everyone. Something like that.

    In my county, as far as I can tell, the local military base has had no representation in the planning of things like the rail plan. My husband is career military and so was my father. I look at the plan and my reaction is: "The military is getting SCREWED!!" But when I talk to local planning type folks, most of them want to please the military because it is, by FAR, the single largest employer in the county, employing more people than the next 3 or 4 largest employers combined, and bringing more than a billion (with a B) dollars into the county every year. So the folks who don't know much about the military seem to think that the present plan is GOOD for the military. It isn't. It is terrible for the military.

    Unfortunately, it is also a truism that the best ideas come from individuals, but the best choices about those ideas come from groups. So you have to start somewhere with a visioning process and then present it to the public. The public will never produce a brilliant vision. But they shore.....I mean they sure are good at telling you what you screwed up that you may not have even noticed was a problem.

  5. #5

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    I have a lot of affection for Pagosa Springs. Karen and I spent one of the best parts of our honeymoon there. But this story is just a continuation of a long history of damaged planning in Archuleta County and W Colorado. The people of place, to the extent any are left can't accept planning because it is so seldom sensitive to their needs, while the newcomers - who may use planning as a tool - mostly are there to make a buck. The West is place where you can always move on, you know. I wonder how long it will take for a true sense of community to arise. I am guessing another 100 years.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    It is a psychological truism that people tend to promote "solutions" which unfairly benefit themselves. It isn't necessarily even conscious. It can be more like, um, a subconscious generalization that because something is good for you, it is good for everyone. Something like that.
    Yes, I truly think that the CVC thinks that this plan will benefit the community at large....it's dissapointing to me that the Planning Firm they hired did not tell the CVC up front to get the public opinion first and then give them the plan...if you read the news reports (www.pagosa.com) you see a lot of anger and mistrust...
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I have a lot of affection for Pagosa Springs. Karen and I spent one of the best parts of our honeymoon there. But this story is just a continuation of a long history of damaged planning in Archuleta County and W Colorado. The people of place, to the extent any are left can't accept planning because it is so seldom sensitive to their needs, while the newcomers - who may use planning as a tool - mostly are there to make a buck. The West is place where you can always move on, you know. I wonder how long it will take for a true sense of community to arise. I am guessing another 100 years.

    I have a lot of affection for Pagosa Springs also - we still own property there so I guess I have a vested interest

    I agree about the old timers being weary of planning efforts - there is such a mix of people there now, ranchers, retirees, new agers, just plain folk, etc. The old timers want their land rights and the new folks want to keep it nice (or turn it into where they came from)

    This area is really starting to take off as far as real estate, etc. and they are going through the dreaded "Big Box" problem also.....alas, my heart really belongs there, and not in the suburbian hell of northern Virginia
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Off Width
    it's dissapointing to me that the Planning Firm they hired did not tell the CVC up front to get the public opinion first
    Planners gotta eat too. When I read the report by the firm hired to "pick the best spots for the new rail stations" for my county, the language used suggests to me they knew this was a bad process to use but didn't feel it was their business to say so directly to the folks who hired them, so they worded it to cover their butts in a "just following orders" kind of way. I don't blame the firm for doing that. They were hired to do a specific thing within certain constraints and they did it. I don't know if I could operate that way -- I might have to open my big fat mouth and tell the client why they are Broke. So, my future address may be "the bum sleeping under such-and-such overpass".

    Off-topic:
    How does one eat AND live as, say, a political activist and sh*t-disturber?
    Last edited by Michele Zone; 07 Feb 2005 at 8:38 PM.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Off Width
    ....it's dissapointing to me that the Planning Firm they hired did not tell the CVC up front to get the public opinion first and then give them the plan...if you read the news reports (www.pagosa.com) you see a lot of anger and mistrust...
    Are you sure the firm didnt? Not all my clients take my advice, and sometimes they get exactly what they want, instead of what they need. Its their peroggative to be stupid, and they can pay the consequences for any resulting corruption allegations. Its my perrogative to revise a scope to meet your wants, advise you of the pitfalls, write the plan that you want, then take your money. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I've been asked to do that too much in the last year.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet
    Are you sure the firm didnt? Not all my clients take my advice, and sometimes they get exactly what they want, instead of what they need. Its their peroggative to be stupid, and they can pay the consequences for any resulting corruption allegations. Its my perrogative to revise a scope to meet your wants, advise you of the pitfalls, write the plan that you want, then take your money. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I've been asked to do that too much in the last year.

    Nah, I am not sure of ANYTHING...

    Actually it seems just like what you said - that the firm produced just what was asked for - a plan that showed the vision of a narrow group of people. I guess I am projecting what I think is an idealized method of making a public plan. Get together, talk it over, produce a plan, talk some more, tweak the plan, talk. This seemed to be - here is this great plan, you WILL love it!

    If you want to get people to buy into an idea - make them think that it's theirs - even if it's not....

    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian cmd uw's avatar
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    Based on your statements, I guess it is safe to claim that 'private' interests are being satisfied with this new plan.

    I am surprised that the community wasn't invited to participate, considering that they are the ones who will be mostly affected by the eventual outcome of the plan.

    Sounds like some small town politics are playing havoc.
    "First we shape our buildings, and then our buildings start shaping us." - Sir Winston Churchill

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Off Width's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cmd uw
    Based on your statements, I guess it is safe to claim that 'private' interests are being satisfied with this new plan.

    I am surprised that the community wasn't invited to participate, considering that they are the ones who will be mostly affected by the eventual outcome of the plan.

    Sounds like some small town politics are playing havoc.
    No, the community was asked to participate - they were given the chance to look at a lot of professional renderings of waht the CVC vision of the downtown would look like. These renderings showed a lot of radical changes (courthouse and schools moved, alleys turned into open markets, etc.) I had a friend who's property (one of the few properties in town zoned for hotel) was shown as a new park ! He was not happy at all with that.... The overall reaction was mixed to say the least!

    The next step after the public meetings - where the community was told that the plan is just a "Vision" and can be changed - is to take the plan to the town for a public hearing. The idea is that the plan will become the revised General Plan for the town. So, there is a chance for the public to comment at the public hearings.

    If nothing else this plan fired-up the local and got them thinking and maybe will get them involved in the process.....

    [It is difficult to say the least to convey this story without the background - if interested please read the stories and plan online]
    NATURE WASTES SPACE
    PAVEMENT IS OUR SALVATION


    Zeroxed signs found along Pacific Coast Highway in 1990. Proudly hanging in my office ever since... ;)

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