Process Diary | May 20, 2015

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Review Week Kicks Off with Sunland Park Workshop

There were lots of familiar faces among community members who filled five discussion tables at the Gadsden School District Administrative Complex in Sunland Park Tuesday evening, May 19. That’s because so many South County residents have been active participants in the two-and-a-half-year collaborative planning process that brought us to this point.

We’re now in the final stretch, approaching a planned wrap-up in late summer, when final versions of Doña Ana County County’s new Comprehensive Plan and its Unified Development Ordinance go before the Board of County Commissioners.

To get a feel for the overall goals of the project, go here.

The week is all about reviewing and fine-tuning the latest draft plans in evening meetings in Sunland Park, Hatch (Wednesday, May 20) and Las Cruces (Thursday, May 21). For times and places, see the schedule here.

The agenda each evening includes an introductory overview by the consulting team’s project manager, Susan Henderson, then collaborative work on maps that illustrate how the team interprets’ residents’ hopes and concerns when it comes to guiding future growth.

Past workshops, reported in the diary posts below this one, helped County staff and the consultants narrow the focus of the Comp Plans and UDC.

DAC_MAY2015.key

That progression built on a foundation of shared Livability Principles, moved to the testing of various “what if” questions in scenario planning exercises, then to successive drafts of planning maps that designated preferred growth patterns for different sectors in the County.

The latest versions of those maps — a Sector map and a new zoning map — were the ones residents considered Tuesday night in Sunland Park and will consider in Hatch and Las Cruces on following nights. See examples below.

Sector map. Click for larger view.

Sector map. Click for larger view.

Proposed new zoning map. Click for larger view.

Proposed new zoning map. Click for larger view.

In our wrap-up report on Friday, May 22, in this space, we’ll dig more deeply into specifics of the Comp Plan and its implications for the new zoning code. And there will be ample opportunities for additional refinements as plans move towards consideration by the Board of County Commissioners.

Here’s the tentative schedule:

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The transition from old ways of doing business to the new plans will require patience on the parts of County staff, property owners and developers as they test the new rules. Tweaks to the regulations will be required to make sure they’re delivering the goals so many people have asserted over the course of this project. But there’s little doubt residents and community leaders grasp the importance of planning to make the most of future opportunities and to address challenges ahead.

We welcome comments in the space below or directly to staff. Contact info can be found here. But even more importantly, come on out and talk to us in person at one of the next two workshops in Hatch and Las Cruces.

Until then, here are some scenes from the day and our evening in Sunland Park.

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  • Kari Bachman

    I want to thank the County and PlaceMakers for holding the event last night in Sunland Park. It was great to see so many folks representing our southern communities in attendance.

    A few questions came up at our table and in conversations after the meeting:

    1. Can you refer us to other municipalities that have enacted similar plans and codes? I know mixed use has become more common in urban areas, but are there rural/village municipalities that have enacted this type of zoning? If so, what has their experience been?

    2. Are any of the proposed zoning designations more restrictive than the current code? Or are all the designations either the same as before or less restrictive?

    3. What types of uses will need prior approval in mixed use areas? What will the process be for landowners to obtain that approval? What will the process be for community members to weigh in?

    4. Once it gets up and going, do you anticipate that this new code will require less staff time to manage than the current code does? If not, what plan is in place to make sure that the new system doesn’t get overburdened?

    Again, I appreciate having the opportunity to learn more about the comp plan last night. Many thanks in advance for any insights you can provide.

    Kari Bachman
    Dona Ana PLACE MATTERS