How Growth Happens: Plan Park County Project Team Updates Commissioners on Local Feedback
Written by Caleb Nelson on June 22, 2022
The regular Park County Commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday included an update from the Plan Park County project team comprised of members from the consulting firm Clarion Associates. Commissioners Dossie Overfield, Scott Mangold, Lloyd Thiel, and Joe Tilden were present with Lee Livingston joining remotely.
In February 2022, Park County launched the first major update of its “Land Use Plan” since 1998. Plan Park County’s slogan reads, “Our County, Our Future.” This process of renewing Park County’s Land Use Plan is being called, “Plan Park County.” Plan Park County represents “an opportunity for all Park County residents, businesses and property owners, and other community stakeholders to help shape Park County’s Future,” the project website states.
Clarion Associates consultants Darcie White and Paul Donegan updated the Commissioners on the process so far with White saying, “In terms of the overall process, we are still wrapping up phase two and phase three.”
This round of survey results focuses on “county-wide goals” and “vision and values,” White explains. The feedback at this point, White says, “sets the stage for everything else that follows.” The feedback is based on months of discussions, town halls, focus groups, and surveys from Park County residents.
Speaking to the Park County Board of County Commissioners, White says, “What we’re looking for from you guys today is to make sure we’re on the right track.”
Based on feedback from the community on Plan Park County’s proposed vision statement, “Overall, the sentiment seems to be we’re on the right track,” White notes.
Several core values have emerged from the community response to the Plan Park County process according to the consultants. With Park County seeing significant growth over the past two years, the county and the Commissioners are wrestling with questions of how to manage that growth over the next ten to twenty years.
“Rural landscapes” were identified as one of the “core values” based on feedback results, Paul Donegan explains. “This is really getting at where growth happens – how growth happens,” Donegan states. Many of the goals associated with the core value of maintaining Park County’s rural landscapes have to do with “growth management.” In other words, Park County is looking for continued economic growth and development, but not at the cost of sacrificing the rural environment and feel of the area. There is also a need to match growth with additional infrastructure. The community wants better “coordination” on this front Donegan explains.
“One of the challenges we heard was about a lack of information – not knowing who’s doing what, when, and where,” White adds. This is exactly what Plan Park County hopes to address with its recommendations, analysis, and road maps. The consensus seems to be that most folks want “responsible development.” The question is how to achieve this specifically.
Dossie Overfield added clarity to the presentation, saying, “I thought there was quite a bit of conversation that went between ag land and open space and they’re two pretty different things,” referring to community discussions about rural landscapes.
Another core tenet, according to Park County Residents, is “resources and heritage.” The values expressed by the community are meant to serve as guideposts for a range of political and economic decision-making regarding things like zoning, building codes, conservation, taxation, historic preservation, and access to outdoor recreation.
Residents of Powell shared concern over “protecting prime agricultural lands,” Donegan says. There could be considerable challenges on this point in the coming years the consultants explain. Questions were raised in the Powell, for example, about “what kinds of ag are we protecting?” White says. The community will have to work together to manage different sectors of agriculture present in Park County (livestock, grain, seed, etc.).
Finally, residents made it clear they want to preserve the Western heritage and tradition in the region including the “tight-knit communities and neighborly feel.” Housing is one of the challenges on this point, Donegan says.
“What we really heard from the community is that the housing issue is as much about your sense of place and community as it is – it’s a growth issue and it’s a can-we-keep-people-here issue,” White remarks.
The Plan Park County process will also inform upcoming changes to county regulations. The goal of building consensus now on community vision, the Clarion Associates advocate, is to save time down the road.