City & Community Developing New Comprehensive Plan
By ROBERT NARANJO
The City of Espanola has contracted with CZB, LLC based in Park City, UT and Virginia to produce a long range Comprehensive Plan working with the city’s Planning and Land Use Department (PLUD), and a Steering
Committee made up of city and area residents. This plan will “set the direction” for the city, CZB’s Thomas Eddington, informed the forty-five people in attendance. “We’ll be together periodically for a year,” he said referring the time frame of the project.
The first Comprehensive Plan meeting was held Nov. 2 at Anthony’s at the Delta and a good turnout of city planning staff, city councilors, elected officials, concerned citizens, and a former mayor who urged everyone to think about “doing something” when they return home to help steer the city in a progressive direction.
Eddington cautioned that the plan does not predict the future but is a tool to “set the direction” of the city when faced with growth and development issues in the future.
“Who can tell me what the interest rates will be next year,” asked Eddington at the outset of the meeting. “Higher,” one participant called out to the amusement of the crowd. Eddington said that at every meeting they’ve held in cities across the country, it’s always the same answer, “higher,” but higher interest rates hasn’t been the case now for years.
His point was that the plan can’t predict the future but it does give guidelines on what is the best practice for the city when decisions need to be made on growth and development as those issues arises.
Furthermore, Eddington advised the attendees, “It will be up to you to make sure the plan doesn’t gather dust” and is utilized. Often comprehensive plans for cities are developed and many times not used he said.
Eddington then told the group that they will participate in an exercise that is used as a tool used to gauge how residents felt about their city and the results are useful to planners.
Five statements about Espanola were written on a chart with numeric choices of 1-5, with 1 representing “Strongly Agree,” 2 representing “Agree,” 3 representing “Disagree,” and 4 representing “Strongly Disagree.” Round colored stickers would be placed on the choices and explanations on their choice written on colored index cards that were provided.
The statements on the two charts were: 1) I’m proud of my community of Espanola; 2) Business as usual will transform the City of Espanola into the community I want to see; 3) Espanola is as good a place to live as it can be; 4) Espanola has enough resources to meet the challenges it will face in the coming years; 5) Espanola has a clear set of priorities.
The results showed that locals had pride in their city (Statement 1) but there were a surprising number of “votes” in the box for “Disagree” and “Strongly Disagree.” There were also many who chose “Strongly Disagree” to the “Business as usual will transform the City…(Statement 2). The rest (Statements 3, 4, 5) were spread across the board.
Eddington asked who had voted “Strongly Disagree” on “Proud of my community” statement. A few people raised their hands and he asked them to explain. All stated that the community’s well-documented illicit drug epidemic had soured their opinion of their own hometown. They mentioned perceived political corruption and other problems as well.
On the other hand, many defended Espanola. One woman talked about how this is likely the only town in America where people will stop to help if a person is stranded on the side of the road. Others mentioned its history, multiculturalism, architecture and the friendliness of the people. The rest of statements were likewise discussed getting both sides of the statement presented, however the “Business as usual will transform the City…” (Statement 2) got no backers.
Eddington told the group that from the 45 gathered, a steering committee would be needed for developing the Comprehensive Plan during the next year or so. The follow up meeting date was announced for people wanting to serve on the steering committee.
Patrick Nicholson, Director of Planning and Land Use Department for the City of Espanola told the Valley Daily Post that the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee follow-up meeting was attended by 20 people who agreed to serve for the next year as members of the important committee. The meetings will likely continue to be held at Anthony’s at the Delta, Nicholson said.