County Gets Serious On Updating Comprehensive Plan

County Manager Harry Burgess briefs Council on the background of the comprehensive paln. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

New County planner Tamara Baer proposes an approach for updating the comprehensive plan. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

CEDD Director Anne Laurent discusses the comprehensive plan. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

Local attorney George Chandler speaks to Council about the flaws he sees in the process underway to update the Comprehensive Plan saying the Plan belongs to the people and the process should begin by soliciting comment from the people. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

 

By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post

Due to planning staff resource limitations and turnover, little to no progress has been made on updating the Los Alamos County Comprehensive Plan.  

After hearing discussion on the plan by staff during this evening’s work session at Fire Station 3 in White Rock, Los Alamos County Council members made it clear that they want staff to get it done.
 
“The plan needs to be accessible and readable,” said Council Chair David Izraelevitz, adding that staff should work with the Planning and Zoning Commission on the process and come back to Council to ask for the resources they need to get the plan done. 
 
Izraelevitz chaired this evening’s meeting in the absence of Kristin Henderson. Councilor James Chrobocinski also was absent and Councilor Susan O’Leary attended via telephone. 
 
O’Leary said she is glad that the comprehensive plan is finally beginning and that the County has hired a new planner and the process is underway, adding that public input has to be a priority. “It’s a very important document,” she said. O’Leary also said that she is very troubled with the idea of using the 10-year-old vision statement to build on without having it validated by the public.
 
Councilor Pete Sheehey said public input and utimately buy in is very important.
 
“I do believe this (updating plan) can be accomplished in a year,” Sheehey said. “We need to hire a consultant to accomplish this.”
 
Sheehey also suggested placing a “working” comprehensive plan on the County website to include a summary of the original comprehensive plan for public viewing.
 
“Then we can start getting informed, constructive opinions,” he said.
 
Councilor Steven Girrens said this is the perfect time to be updating the comprehensive plan to make sure it’s compatible with the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
 
The Planning & Zoning Commission has received updates from County staff, but has not taken any formal action on updating the comprehensive plan at this point.
 
Background:
 
In April 2014, staff provided an approach to updating the comprehensive plan to the Planning & Zoning Commission as an informal discussion and in a memo to the County Council. Due to planning staff resource limitations and turnover, little to no progress has been made.
 
In May 2015, two new senior planning professionals were hired with expertise in both current and long range planning. This presentation is an update to the approach outlined last year and an opportunity for the new Council to revise or affirm the comprehensive plan update approach and process prior to initiating any formal efforts. The comprehensive plan update goals at present are to:  
  • Create a unifying document for the citizens, Council, Planning and Zoning Commission and staff;
  • Create a high level document that improves our community’s responsiveness to promote new development and redevelopment;
  • Reaffirm the 2004 Vision Statement (adopted in 2005) with the current Council’s Strategic Goals;
  • Consolidate all land use maps (different from zoning maps) that represent where we want to go with future land uses and ratios as a basis for updating the development code; and,
  • Create a user-friendly document that future land use proposals/decisions will be evaluated against and can be efficiently updated every five years with a reasonable amount of effort.
 
The 2015 Council Strategic Goal under Operational Excellence relating to the comprehensive plan reads: “Manage commercial growth well following an updated, concise, and consistent comprehensive plan.”
 
Additional issues that are important to consider in updating the comprehensive plan process:
  • Honor and incorporate the past work done on adopted comprehensive plan documents that are still relevant;
  • Identify gaps of needed information to complete the comprehensive plan and develop strategies to fill these gaps;
  • Involve the public, allow input, and be transparent with information throughout the process; and,
  • Strategically and efficiently involve consultant services.

P&Z Commission Chair Phil Gursky. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

Lisa Roy calls for a consultant to help draw people out to express their ideas on the comp plan. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

Rebecca Shankland addresses Council on the comprehensive plan. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

Joe Schmit speaks to Council. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

Community members and County staff listen as Council discusses the process for updating the comprehensive plan. Photo by Carol A.Clark/ladailypost.com

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