Some say plan has zoning, projection flaws

Not everyone’s a fan of the comprehensive plan that will be presented to the Grand Junction City Council for a vote Wednesday, including at least one of the city’s own.

City Council member Bill Pitts still is mulling over how he will vote on the comprehensive plan, saying it’s “not specific enough” about zoning. Pitts said he doesn’t see a need to provide higher-density housing for newcomers.

“I think the way we’re headed is just more sprawl,” Pitts said. “We’ve only got room for so many. The argument that the world changes and you have to move with it — no, I don’t.”

Mesa County staff and commissioners have been involved in the formation of the comprehensive plan, but the plan will rest alongside the county’s master plan as a nonbinding guide for accepting or tossing development requests, Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.

Acquafresca, who attended all but one public meeting about the plan, said he’s concerned it overestimates the rate of growth the city will experience in the next 25 years. He said he worries there’s no backup plan if growth remains slow or backslides.

Although the plan projects the plan area will need 41,000 additional housing units by 2035, Acquafresca said only about 300 residential units were built in 2009 in the plan area.

“That falls ridiculously short of expectations in the comprehensive plan,” he said.

City Manager Laurie Kadrich defended the timing of the plan’s adoption. Even if growth was a more prominent issue in 2007, she said, the population is projected to expand in years to come in Grand Junction, regardless of the rate.

“The plan is still as important as it was two years ago,” she said.

The city hosted 13 public open houses between Oct. 16, 2007, and Aug. 19, 2009, about the comprehensive plan. It hosted dozens of other meetings with service groups, neighborhoods and stakeholders. For the most part, the plan embodies ideas that garnered the most favor at public meetings and in a survey mailed to citizens in mid-2008.

Among those results, 74 percent of respondents wanted to preserve agricultural areas by allowing for higher-density housing in clusters closer to more populated parts of the city. Meanwhile, half believed creating mixed-use centers throughout the city is the best way to encourage future growth.

Some responses showed it may be difficult to please everyone, whether people differ on how something appears in the plan or how its development will be funded. For example:

The idea of establishing a trail system that connects parks and open space received a high score from the survey’s 475 respondents, but only 21 percent supported building trails if taxes went up, and 18 percent wanted to spend less on trails.

When asked to choose on a five-point spectrum whether a person would rather live in a condo or townhome and live close to amenities or live 30 minutes away from amenities and have a larger home or lot, most people, 72 percent, chose something in the middle.

Although 58 percent of respondents said they live in a single-family home on a small lot now, just 21 percent said they wanted to live on a small lot in five years.

Twenty-nine percent said they wanted to live on a large lot in five years, even though just one-quarter of respondents live on a large lot now.

The aim of the plan is to take hundreds of comments from a variety of people and create a document that’s flexible enough to adapt to future circumstances, Councilwoman Teresa Coons said.

“We know we haven’t made everyone happy, and we probably can’t,” Coons said. “As many people as we talked to, you’re going to have that many opinions. Sometimes the opinions are opposing, so you have to make a choice.”


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