Aztec NM to unveil a draft comprehensive plan for the city’s development
- Albuquerque-based company Consensus Planning was hired by the city to help produce the new plan.
- This will be the first update to Aztec’s global plan in almost 20 years.
- A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 3 at the Hub, 119 S. Church Ave. in Aztec.
FARMINGTON – A common criticism of full blueprint updates is that while a lot of time and resources are spent developing them, they too often end up on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust.
That’s according to John Shepard, a senior planner at Consensus Planning, an Albuquerque-based company that specializes in town planning, urban design and landscape architecture.
Shepard’s company is helping city officials update Aztec’s comprehensive plan – by producing a document intended to guide the city’s development for the next 20 years. He said that a critical part of this process is to gain public buy-in to ensure the update is not put aside and forgotten almost as quickly as it is completed.
“A comprehensive plan is not regulatory, it is a statement of how the community wants to develop for the next 20 years and how to get there,” he said.
With that thought in mind, Aztec town planners and Consensus Planning staff will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 3 outside the Hub, 119 S. Church Ave. to Aztec, to present their draft global plan.
The meeting will be the last chance for the public to comment on the details of the plan before it is submitted to the Aztec City Commission for approval later in June.
The plan covers issues such as land use, economic development, housing and neighborhoods, infrastructure, transportation, parks and recreation, public services and facilities, and risk mitigation.
Development of the full update to the plan began in June 2020 and has involved two previous public meetings, both held virtually, and several meetings of a steering committee made up of about a dozen residents.
Steven Saavedra, Aztec’s director of community development, hopes to see a large crowd at Thursday’s meeting and wants the townspeople to care about the plan.
“It’s only good, like anything else, like how you apply it and how you use it,” he said, explaining how the implementation of the specifics of the plan will be very important.
Saavedra said he hoped to see the updated plan become a “living document,” a document flexible enough to accommodate any changes that Aztec has seen over the next two decades. But, he noted, no document can predict the future.
“This document is largely in black and white, and we live in a world of color,” he said.
No break for the pandemic
Aztec last updated its global plan in 2002, which means that the adoption of the new plan will come just before the 20th anniversary of the creation of the old one. The city received a $ 500,000 grant from the New Mexico Finance Authority to cover the costs of the process.
This funding has kept costs to the city of Aztec to a minimum. But restrictions on how long the money is available has forced the city to continue the process of updating the plan despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The town of Farmington, which is also updating its comprehensive plan, decided to halt work on the project several months ago because it could not hold public meetings in person to solicit a response. Aztec didn’t have that luxury, Saavedra said, because the NMFA grant required the money to be spent over a period of time.
Still, he and Shepard said they were happy with the level of public engagement they’ve seen in the process so far. The city held two virtual meetings open to the public and the steering committee met regularly to provide guidance.
“At the first meeting I was very impressed,” Saavedra said of the level of attendance. “And that’s when virtual meetings were new.”
Shepard said he believes the draft version of the plan that will be presented this week accurately reflects the wishes of most residents.
“I think we have received good feedback from the community,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to get more public participation.”
Shepard said virtual meetings have pros and cons. Young families with children, who often struggle to find time to attend evening meetings, had a practical alternative thanks to the virtual setting.
The same is true for older residents, he said, who may have been particularly hesitant to congregate in public over the past year due to the pandemic.
But the situation also had its drawbacks, he noted, especially for residents who are not computer literate or lack good and reliable internet service.
But both praised the work of the steering committee.
“We had a very active steering committee,” Shepard said. “It was very engaged.”
He said one of the most common themes expressed by residents was the desire to see Aztec carve its own place among the efforts of various local governments to rename San Juan County as an outdoor recreation destination. He said this could take the form of a “creative economy” that complements the region’s outdoor offerings rather than one directly part of it.
Complete Aztec map:Residents identify outdoor recreation as an important element
“What we heard from Aztec residents was the idea of not jumping on this trend is that Aztec has found its place and what it can offer people not only locally, but in New Mexico and in the southwest as a whole, ”Shepard said.
Saavedra cited work by Aztec on developing an outdoor recreation manufacturing and retail facility as evidence that the city is already moving in that direction. He said the city had received $ 500,000 from state investment funds as seed money for the project.
“This is a real example of how the city is trying to take it to the next level and put it in place,” he said.
“We have had a few difficult years”
Developing a new long-term plan is something the Aztecs badly need, said Saavedra, noting that fate hasn’t been kind to the community lately.
“As far as Aztec is concerned, we have had a few difficult years,” he said. “There was the shooting (at the Aztec high school), the economic problems and even some political problems.”
Saavedra, who has worked for the city for five years, said he didn’t want to disrespect those who drew up the city’s latest comprehensive plan. But he said few of his goals appear to have been implemented, in large part due to unforeseen economic changes that have made him largely irrelevant.
He hopes this update will be better in the long run and said he feels a lot of optimism among residents, despite the struggles of the past.
“I hope we can come back to this plan in 20 years and say that we have managed to achieve most of our goals,” he said.
Shepard, who lived in San Juan County, said he was impressed with the degree of public activism he sees in Aztec, and he believes the large amount of public land that exists within the city limits gives him an advantage over other similar communities. Cut.
“The question is how Aztec can handle this,” he said. “It is something unique in this region.”
Once the plan is finalized and adopted, work has only just begun for Saavedra, whose department will be responsible for its implementation. He said it was important for the public to hold him, his staff and other city officials accountable, he said. But it’s also important that residents are willing to follow the stated goals of the plan, he said.
“The city cannot do it alone,” Saavedra said.
A provisional version of the plan can be downloaded here.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription.