Aspen needs a plan, not disconnect
The open house event Wednesday at the Limelight was an encouraging effort by the city to conduct genuine and effective outreach. The challenge with the Galena Plaza portion was not the quality of the designs presented, but the scope of work that staff and the consultants were given. Participants in the room were surveyed on granular details — basically whether the community would like to see tulips or roses planted in the public space.
When it came time for questions, citizens voiced concerns and raised questions about the bigger picture — connectivity to the site; the long-term highest and best use for Galena Plaza; is the city coordinating with the county; has the Airport Vision Committee’s recommendation for a transportation connection to downtown and Galen Plaza as a mobility hub been considered, and even what types of events are contemplated for the lawn space and where the public rest rooms would be. These questions couldn’t be answered because they either weren’t contemplated or were outside the staff and consultants’ scope of work.
The remedy for this disconnect is for council to shut down its strategy of siloing projects and narrowing staff and consultant’s scope so much that it ignores the bigger picture, but there’s also a missing tool that everyone could benefit from — a plan.
The Civic Master Plan that was started roughly 17 years ago and approved in 2006 is outdated. This is the document and tool that addresses all the bigger picture questions so that when the city really wants feedback from the community on whether tulips or roses should be planted and the community raises bigger picture concerns there’s a relevant document that explains the broader vision.
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So far the Civic Master Plan has been largely ignored. The response from staff and consultants on why it’s not being used as a guiding document has been that the city is “looking forward.” When a council member was asked this week when the city planned to update the Civic Master Plan, they said they didn’t know and to ask staff. When staff was asked the same question, their response was that they haven’t been given direction by council to update it.
No updated Civic Master Plan, no direction from council, and a narrow scope for staff and consultants is not a formula to achieve extraordinary outcomes for the community regardless of how much outreach is done.
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