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Thu, Nov. 21

<I>Talk of the Town</I><BR>Merits abound in the 2003 General Plan

Perhaps you still haven't had an opportunity to study the 2003 General Plan.

Perhaps all you have seen are the negative statements about it in Courier editorials (see Sept. 5, "General plan needs scrutiny, comments" and Sept. 21, "Open space is fine and dandy...but...").

The editor laments that the committee of 12 had "only two businesspeople, and one of them almost didn't make it onto the committee." This begs the question: what percentage of the voters in Prescott are business people?

What's right about the General Plan? It has vision. If you get no further than pages 6 and 7, read the planning principles and values set out as the Smart Growth philosophies held by Prescott: well-planned, moderate new growth; sustainability; compact forms; balance; support for a vibrant city center; integrated planning; connectivity; development which helps pay for itself; reasonable and equitable tax and fee structure; citizen involvement and participation. Is there anything here you would like to see eliminated?

It is comprehensive. Its eight elements go beyond the mandates of the Growing Smarter legislation. In fact, these eight elements go beyond what any one of us in the community could have thought to include. In this case, the collective wisdom of the members of the committee, combined with the State of Arizona's mandate and with comments from the public, have yielded a document brimming with facts, followed by constructively written goals, expanded with recommended strategies to achieve those goals.

Especially valuable to planning for the next 10 years is Section 7, Circulation Element. That is perhaps the element most lacking in the development of Prescott. No one has looked at the big picture and foreseen the snarl of traffic that accompanies growth at the whim of the owners and developers. What if someone 10 or 20 years ago said, "If employment and service centers are encouraged to locate conveniently close to residential areas, new roadway demands and traffic congestion may be decreased"? (page 61)

The Courier editor deplored the fact that the phrase "open space" occurs 130 times in the 125-page draft. That narrow view might distract you from seeing within the plan the informative figures and tables, such as Figure 5-1, Land Uses as Percentages of City Land Mass. Notice the shrinking category "Vacant," down from 47 percent to 30 percent in 12 years. What will we do with that 30 percent of our community during the next 10 years?

Look also at Figures 5-5 and 5-7, and see what is out of balance in our community. There is a pronounced affordability gap, especially for those households earning 60 percent or less of this area's median income. The report states, "This lack of affordable housing for the lowest-income households also affects the housing supply for moderate-income families. Lower-income households must secure housing that is beyond their means (i.e., costing more than 28 percent of household income), creating a shortage of housing at higher price levels. The shortage of housing affordable for the lower-income households reverberates through the housing stock available to moderate-income households, compounding the problems for many working families." What that means is that teachers, nurses, police and firefighters can scarcely afford to live in the community they serve.

Of the values listed in the vision statement, perhaps the ones most crucial to the long-term health of Prescott are integrated planning and sustainability. To be truly integrated, planning must be regional and must include a roadmap toward a "viable and reliable public transit system."

What can you do now? If you care deeply about Prescott's future, visit with the mayor and the other members of the City Council to express your support for approval of the 2003 General Plan.

Linnie DiCianni is chair of the Interfaith Coalition for Compassion and Justice (ICCJ).

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