Too often in the county, development guides planning, when the best interests of citizens would be better served if the order was reversed. In planning districts where the land use designations are out-of-date and much of the land is un-zoned, development proposals lead to the implementation of planning tools (like zoning). A developer will bring forward a proposal for a new project, and in the absence of land use designations or zoning, Planning staff, and the commissioners, have no real means to evaluate the proposal.
Big questions in these situations go un-answered, like: Does this development fit with the neighborhood as it is now? Does it fit with the long-term vision residents have for the community?Is this the future residents are expecting?
We should have staff-facilitated public discussions in each planning district on the needs of the area, as well as the residents' vision for the future. What do people love about their neighborhoods, and what do they believe needs to change for the next 5, 10 even 20 years? These conversations should then guide land use designations, and eventually, where activity demands it, zoning. In this way, the people most affected by change can have a clear and strong say in the future of their neighborhoods.
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