City Council considers comprehensive plan
As the development applications rolled in and the growth plan amendments stacked up, Grand Junction City Council members realized it was time for a new plan.
The plan would push away the zoning-centric growth plan and combine ideas for trail and park projects, sewer and street expansions, and any other information that would show how much of what could go where without crumbling quality of life and service costs in the city and along its borders. The city named this concept the comprehensive plan and began creating it Aug. 1, 2007.
Nearly 31 months later, at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the City Hall auditorium, the City Council will approve or reject the 178-page comprehensive plan.
One of the top goals of the plan is to encourage commercial and high-density residential development in clusters across the city in hopes that fewer people will “sprawl” into the outer sections of the city. Guiding growth in this direction will help the city deliver services at a lower cost and keep emergency-response times low, City Public Works and Planning Director Tim Moore said. Moore said he hopes clustering services and apartments and condos will even out the valley.
“The goal is to move some service centers east to balance what has been an imbalance of where services are and where people live,” Moore said.
The future land use map that accompanies the comprehensive plan is a malleable group of suggestions more than a definitive document. The City Council will use suggested land uses on the map to help determine if a proposed development fits with the goals of the area, but the clusters of development, called village and neighborhood centers, can move within a mile of the intersection where they’re expected to go without an amendment being required.
Village centers are clusters of commercial, retail, office and residential property that are destinations that require a bit of driving for most people to reach. Neighborhood centers are on a smaller scale and are designed to provide services that are walking distance for neighbors.
Grouping housing as well as increasing the housing density expected in most areas of the city will hopefully bring more housing types and lower purchase and rent prices to the valley, said Don Hartman, the Grand Junction Housing Authority’s representative on the comprehensive plan’s steering committee. The committee consisted of community members from various industries that offered advice to the city about the plan.
“It’s just an overall fact that anytime you allow more houses to be built, housing costs decrease because the land cost is spread out over a greater number of houses,” Hartman said.
Higher densities were not placed on East Orchard Mesa, in northwest Grand Junction north of I Road, or in some parts of the Redlands. That was welcome news for Mel Rettig, an Orchard Mesa farmer and member of the steering committee.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction as far as agriculture goes,” Rettig said of the plan. “Talking about higher densities in the city and community centers takes a lot of pressure off agricultural ground,” he said.
Rettig said the city needs to preserve agricultural ground, not just for farmers but to keep farm-supply companies alive. If he could make a change to the comprehensive plan, Rettig said, he’d ask for more industrial and commercial zoning in desert areas that aren’t conducive to farming.
More industrial, commercial and business park land is exactly what’s being suggested for the area north of Interstate 70 and east of Grand Junction Regional Airport. This will be helpful for attracting new businesses to town, according to Grand Junction Economic Partnership CEO and President Ann Driggers.
“Until things actually get zoned and the land becomes developed, companies won’t be looking at (moving into) it, but it shows foresight on behalf of the city that will bode well for future interests,” Driggers said.
The true test for the plan will be seeing if developers are interested in the future land use map suggestions outlined in the comprehensive plan, said City Councilman Tom Kenyon, who is a Realtor.
“If people don’t adopt the centers or move into those places and developers don’t build them, it won’t work,” Kenyon said of the neighborhood- and village-center concepts.
Even if things don’t come together perfectly, Kenyon has faith developers will be interested in the higher-density proposals and build apartments and townhomes.
“The one good thing about real estate is you need a broad range of properties,” Kenyon said. “I would agree some higher density, in downtown especially, would be a nice addition to our inventory.”
Councilwoman Linda Romer Todd, also a Realtor, said the comprehensive plan can’t interfere with the marketplace. But she said the plan would provide more guidance for developers, who wouldn’t have to worry about getting a growth-plan amendment before asking for zoning.
Amendments to the comprehensive plan may not be as common as ones to the growth plan, which it would replace, because the comprehensive plan would be reviewed every three to five years. The city can make amendments to areas within the Persigo 201 Sewer Service Area boundary, and the Mesa County Planning Commission can make amendments to land not yet annexed into the city but included in the plan.