Residents of Chaffee County are invited to the kick-off event for the new comprehensive plan [comp plan], scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Pavilion. The “Together Chaffee” event is the first of many public open house events that will occur over the next 12 to 18 months as the plan is developed.

Residents of Chaffee county value the open spaces and view corridors that stretch across large swaths of the county, but some warn that these spaces are protected at the moment “only by goodwill.”

“A county’s comprehensive plan is the embodiment of the community’s vision and aspirations for transportation, housing, the environment, land use, recreation, utilities, economic development, growth and much more,” said Commissioner Keith Baker, who will be the county commissioner liaison on the process.

“A comp plan covers a long-term horizon with near-term, mid-term, and long term goals and results from a collaborative effort between the public, staff experts, elected officials and consulting agencies,” said Baker. “Comprehensive plans are normally updated on five-to-seven year cycles, but Chaffee County’s [plan] hasn’t been updated in 20 years.”

The full process will involve residents, local leaders and stakeholders in a broad discussion about what ‘we the people’ want Chaffee County to be. The discussion will include jobs, housing, open spaces, agricultural lifestyles, natural resources and the recreational economy.

The county’s schedule for the plan is aggressive, say representatives of CTA Architects and Engineers, the consultant contracted by Chaffee County to develop the plan. The consultants have pointed out that they need a broad representation of the county to assure that the resulting plan for the future represents the entire county, not just segments of it. The plan is to have the new Comprehensive Plan done by March 2020.

“The best plans take a year or less than a year [to complete]. This whole process is built on public information,” said CTA Planner David Dixon, who will be the local lead reporting to CTA Principal and Lead Planner Wayne Freeman. “At this point, we want feedback on the initial direction and goals for the plan.”

Artist’s rendering of the Buena Vista Middle School and High School, currently under construction. The growth experienced by the school district is continuing.

This June 26 meeting will be the first of at least five individual neighborhood planning sessions. Still, other public meetings will be organized around specific issues such as housing and the recreation economy. Three meetings will be organized to get input from the county’s schools.

The process, says Freeman, synthesizes the gathered information with best planning practices, turning it into a draft plan. Key to a cohesive comp plan will be getting input from all age groups and across a broad range of issues, not just those retired or single-issue residents. At the same time, the planning commissioners and county commissioners said they want to see the work that has already been done be acknowledged.

Sub-groups focused on the gathering’s key questions did not lack for ideas.

“People have put a lot of time into these [Envision work] plans,” said Planning Commissioner Hank Held during the joint work session with CTA in early June. “It would be wise to say, we are adopting the wildfire protection plan for instance … our goal is to take that and drill down into usable working parts that can be used for the next 10 to 15 years.”

“I see the comp plan as broader, while our land use code is where this is going to become real,” said Planning Commissioner Bill Baker during that work session. “There are two parts, first people are going to have to step up to become part of this. But there’s another part based on history, a point of view that says ‘this too shall pass’. When I applied [to be a planning commissioner] I asked ‘is the comp plan work for real?’ To me, this is critically important. In the end, it’s going to produce a LUC that reflects the values of the people living here.”

Bill Baker went on to point out that from the north to the southern end of the county, between the mountains and the river is mostly private land right now. “It’s a valuable resource, wildlife, water recharge, view spaces … but there is nothing other than goodwill protecting that land.”

The Farm, in Buena Vista, is some of the county’s newest workforce housing.

“We have these trade-offs, these are our challenges, said Planning Commission Chair Mike Allen. “In the future, we also have to keep some sort of economic viability. If we limit growth opportunities, then we limit who can live here and it won’t be those who work here. We want business and housing opportunities for some sustainable growth.”

The event will include light refreshments and children’s activities. Chaffee County Shuttle is providing transportation for those needing it. Go to www.chaffeecounty.org for more information. What the county does want residents to know is that all residents are welcome at the event at the Mt. Princeton Pavilion.

“The time is now, and we want ours to be a “new model” comp plan that is the centerpiece of an ongoing conversation about our community’s destiny and not a periodic exercise that sits on a shelf collecting dust until the next update,” said Baker. “The best time to influence a process is at the outset, so please come share your thoughts at this important public meeting.”