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An open invitation to Chaffee County residents to attend the formal kick-off of the county’s first new comprehensive plan since 2000 was termed a success by commissioners. More than 70 people from all across the county showed up to provide input to the process, which county officials refer to as “Together Chaffee County.” Attendees represented a broad array of interests, disciplines and ages.

“People have been really thoughtful. They’re bringing up tough questions, things that this plan will need to address,” said CTA Planner David Dixon. Together with CTA Architects and Engineers Principal Wayne Freeman, Dixon is the local lead for development of the plan. “This is a great turnout to get feedback on the initial direction and goals for the plan.”

The Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Pavilion was set up with a series of tables and giant boards, designed to give people more information about the goal areas, Each had a comment board on which to place their questions and concerns, each board representing a different goal for the comprehensive plan.

“I think this is so important. I’m so glad they are asking us what we think,” said Trish Cullinan of Pinon Hills. “When it comes to things like fire danger, water conservation and keeping this place beautiful, you know we’re all in this together.”

Along with what became hundreds of sticky note questions, concerns and comments on the big boards, participants were asked to complete a three-question survey. The survey asked the following:

  • In five words or less each, name the top three things that make Chaffee County attractive to you.
  • In five words or less each, name the top three issues facing Chaffee County growth
  • If you had one word to describe Chaffee County, what would it be?

The questions elicited a good deal of discussion among participants, and much scribbling. The last. one-word question appeared to get a strong response. While some wrote down words like “wholesome,” “scenic” and “worth protecting” others sounded a note of caution.

“I wrote down ‘fragile’,” said Buena Vista resident Jacy Dumas, who was there representing the Chaffee Green Sustainability Program of GARNA (Greater Arkansas River Nature Association). “What we have here could be so easily destroyed if the wrong things happen. We have a chance at this moment to protect this place.”

The event is the beginning of a 12 to 18-month long plan process that is highly dependent upon residents speaking up and providing their input about their vision for the county. That input will result in a new comprehensive plan which will directly translate to land use policy.

Commissioners and the Chaffee County Planning Commission have stressed that their request for citizen involvement is not a trivial request, nor is it a topic that concerns only a few organizations. They say they want to see broad participation, involving every person living and working in Chaffee County. At stake, say many, is what Chaffee County will become five years, ten years, or twenty years from now.

Chaffee County has budgeted for a $250,000 planning effort; half county funds, the other half provided as a funding match from the Department of Local Affairs. The process will include more than a dozen opportunities for the public to weigh in, and more sessions involving groups representing aspects of the county which have been termed highly important county assets.

“This is a big undertaking, but we’re off to a good start,” said County Chair Greg Felt. “We were over due from a planning perspective. But I think we’re all pleased with the community involvement.”

For more information directly from the county as the planning process continues, the county will soon be launching a website for residents and businesses about the plan preparation process. When live that website address will be: together.chaffeecounty.org