Letter: Avoid another futile planning process

This is the first and a portion of the third of 13 goals contained in “Section 4: Goals and Objectives” of the 2007 Basalt Master Plan.

“Goal 1: Conserve agricultural land, river frontage and open space around the community. Encourage compact, efficient, pedestrian and transit-oriented development with distinct commercial centers. The town discourages strip commercial and low-density urban sprawl development and encourages a concentric development pattern. The town values a development pattern that incorporates community facilities and amenities such as schools, religious facilities and libraries within close proximity to existing commercial and residential areas. The town also values mixed use and live/work arrangements, provided these projects are consistent with the other community goals outlined in this document especially those related to Land Use, Environment and Community Character.”

Goal 3 says in part, “Promote compact, dense development designed to encourage pedestrian circulation (around) … well-defined town centers which serve as both community gathering places and commercial centers.”

The remainder of the goal paragraph restates goal number 1.

What these goal statements lack in conciseness, they make up for in breadth to the point where the remaining goals approach redundancy. In combination, these two goals underlie the conclusions of every community planning effort of the past generation, unambiguously and repeatedly calling for smart growth in and around the old town core. They specifically avoid saying there should be no growth in old town. It is truly perplexing why and how the political process systematically disregards citizen-derived purposes, appearing to pursue a growth policy in exact opposition to the goals.

Thorough comprehension of the Master Plan requires a serious commitment due to the monotonous format, the apparent need for legal security and unrelenting repetition. For those folks who understand and support the need for responsible downtown development, it seems that a concise restatement and publication of the Master Plan Goals may be an effective tool toward implementing citizen-derived intentions sans obfuscation. A concise goals document would allow smart growth advocates to provoke sustainable growth decisions, assess staff and decision-maker performance with respect to the goals and to avoid another futile, expensive and time consuming “planning process.”

Smart growth inaction will predictably result in a continuation of downtown retail exodus, expansion of the Willits/El Jebel new-town center (with accompanying congestion) with old town transforming to a tourism curiosity supported wholly by nonprofits. These are not the ingredients for “place making” that the Master Plan unequivocally aims to achieve.

Don Ensign