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February 21, 2013
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KONOLA: City planners in the midst of a tug of war

First, allow me to say that I'm no expert when it comes to city planning and zoning. But I have been in cities that appear to have good zoning, and cities that obviously have horrid zoning. In small communities in New Mexico, as an example, zoning is pretty weak and the result is junkyards right next to large single-family homes. Santa Fe, N.M., is an exception, as their zoning regulations have been designed to protect the historic character of this capital city. There are no high rise buildings in Santa Fe because it would destroy the historic look of an old Spanish city that draws millions of tourist to enjoy the plaza and mixing of three cultures: Anglo, Latino and Native American. The preferred building material is adobe, so modern, all-glass structures are also absent.

Zoning is a simple concept. It separates areas of the city according to how it may best be used to promote the general welfare of citizens. Residential areas are separated from commercial areas and industrial areas. Each different use requires different kinds of infrastructure development. Residential roads need not be designed to accommodate large industrial trucks. Industrial areas need access to things like railroads and interstate highways and airports. Commercial areas, especially when they include retail businesses, need more parking than do residential areas.

Humans have been planning how their cities evolve for centuries. City planning is nothing new, although it seems that, like everything that involves politics, the way a city grows and evolves is dependent upon whether the planning process is controlled by developers or citizens. One controversial new theory of city planning is based on the theory that modern lifestyles waste natural resources and create social inequalities. Planners who embrace this theory think about communities with front porches so that people can get to know their neighbors. They include walking, running and biking paths to connect residential areas with commercial and industrial areas. They have pocket parks in commercial and industrial areas so that workers have a quiet place to take a break from the pressures of work.

Grand Junction seems to be in the middle of a tug of war between developers who want the most profitable use of the land in which they have invested, and citizens who want a pleasant and healthy place to live. Two prime examples of this tug of war are the zoning question that will be on Grand Junction's ballot in April relative to property owned by Brady Trucking, and a struggle by the residents of El Poso who do not want the initially proposed 6-foot-high chain link fence topped with concertina wire around a land parcel located at the entrance of their community. (The developer of the property this week made a concession to build a "masonry" wall, as opposed to a chain link fence and concertina wire.)

I once helped to finance a wild fire facility that was located on the Hoopa Valley Reservation in California. Tribal leaders nixed any idea that there be chain link fences and concertina wire on a building that was on the main road through the tribal community. Their thinking was that if it looked like a prison, people would behave like prisoners, but if it looked like a garden, people would stop to smell the roses.

The residents of El Poso want to smell the roses and continue producing community leaders. But the Lead City Planner did not counter the developer when residents were told that it was a "done deal" even before the project has approval by the City Council. El Poso residents expected they would not be heard in the process of approving a "wareyard" at the entrance to their community.

I understand why the developer would want to build a project for the Department of the Interior (DOI). That would make it a Class A tenant, which will make financing easier. That developer wants to maximize its profits and minimize its expenses. They are looking for the least expensive security measures to protect the boats, signs, etc. needing to be stored by the DOI. Least expensive isn't always most appealing.

I have a couple of questions for the city planners. Is this the best use of the Gene Taylor property? Are there other locations that might be better suited to a "wareyard?" Do the residents, who happen to be mostly Latino, deserve roses?

Claudette Konola can be reached at ckonola@optimum.net or through her website at www.Konola4Colorado.com.


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The Post Independent Updated Feb 21, 2013 02:59PM Published Feb 21, 2013 02:58PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.