Monday, December 08, 2008

Planning for growth...

Last Friday I attended the 2008 Boards & Commissions Conference in Phoenix. The city of Kingman sent me there for the opportunity to help me get acquainted with my new appointment to the local Planning and Zoning Commission. The conference was put on by the Arizona Department of Commerce and it included four different sessions on various topics.

Of the sessions I attended, one thing stuck out as a prevailing subject... the expectation of growth throughout the state. (Well, I did attend one breakout session that had to do with Open Meeting Law and Conflict of Interest and growth wasn't really the subject there.)

Of course Arizona is a very diverse state and many communities are in various stages of development. Some of the subject matter was focused on transportation improvements via light rail solutions, something I seriously doubt that Kingman is planning on or is even applicable at this time. Some of the principles covered that would apply to Kingman though I felt were the following...

The encouragement of regional, community, and stakeholder collaboration. This one fits nicely with my overall outlook... calling on the community to come together to identify shared values and common vision for what we want the community to be and making the information accessible leads to greater public involvement and transparency. I think I even wrote a letter to editor some time ago on this subject matter. From that link...

On July 16, I spoke to City Council and briefly shared a vision where an inclusive group of community leaders could collaborate together to provide a list of solutions that would make the decision process a bit easier on the elected officials. The intention was to send a strong signal to the community that we all have a golden opportunity to make a real impact on the future of Kingman. By working together, we could create a friendly path to take that would already have the full support of all.

The next couple of principles could be combined the way I see it in our location... mixed land uses and the creation of walkable neighborhoods. One of the underlying themes to the overall theme of growth was the reduction of the dependence of automobiles for transportation (reduction, not elimination). I believe that new communities/developments in the city will most likely keep this in mind and lead to new kinds of demand for housing in our area. We will likely see such terms as healthier lifestyles, environmental concerns, and energy conversation get thrown around as Kingman continues to grow and develop. Supporting the implementation of mixed land uses and walkable neighborhoods will be key in this regard, if simple support is not enough then the city may want to consider some sort of incentives.

The above principles lead to the next principle in some manner, the creation of a good range of housing opportunities and choices. Housing needs are diverse, no doubt, and I don't have a feel at this time for how good the current choices are in meeting the demands that people have. At this time, it is mostly about affordability for most, given the current economy. Having a nice range of housing options near employment centers will be key going forward.

The next principle covered was fostering distinctive and attractive communities with a strong sense of place. Community characteristics are one driver of economic development. Communities with a strong sense of place must reflect the character and values of the people who live there. My question... are we achieving this in Kingman??

The last principle from the presentation I attended that I felt applied at this time to current events in Kingman is making development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective. I'll just quote from the materials...

Development tends to follow the path of least resistance, so the development that is the most desirable should be the easiest to do. There should be as few barriers as possible to restoring historic buildings and creating infill development. Design and construction standards, review and approval processes and finance and fee strategies should be clear for all types of development. Uncertainty creates misunderstandings, aggravates disagreements, costs developers money and ultimately serves no one in the community.

To me, the above hits on many tones here in Kingman currently.

Lastly, one other term jumped out at me in the materials I collected... public/private partnerships.

It was an interesting conference and I was glad to be able to attend. I look forward to my appointment and the duties that come with it. I'm sure I have plenty of learning to do along the way.

Thanks again to the many that have called, emailed, or even stopped by to congratulate me.

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