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Tue, Jan. 21

2050 Visioning effort works toward December completion goal

PRESCOTT - When most people think of Prescott, the historic downtown area - with its wide sidewalks and mixture of uses - likely comes to mind.

But local architect Matt Ackerman maintains that those beloved features are far from what the city's current codes are encouraging.

"The new things that are being built don't resemble that at all," said Ackerman. "What the current planning and zoning codes do is make the good illegal, and the bad very easy to achieve."

Ackerman and other members of a sub-group of the ongoing 2050 Visioning effort would like to turn that around.

Through their several months of work, members of the Smart Growth sub-group came up with a proposal for a "Smart Code," which would exist alongside the city's current codes.

"We're not going to advocate that the City of Prescott get rid of the existing codes," Ackerman said. Rather, he said the sub-group suggests incentives, such as expediting the permitting process, to encourage developers to use the Smart Code.

That is just one of the ideas that has come forward in the 2050 planning effort that Mayor Jack Wilson kicked off in February.

The effort's sub-groups include such varied topics as climate change, cultural affairs, downtown, economic development, and housing. Fifteen different groups have been working to help chart Prescott's course for the next four decades.

Wilson and the effort's steering committee chairman William E. Arnold reported this week that the groups continue to work toward the goal of completing their reports by December. Then, in January, Wilson plans to conduct a large community meeting to gauge the public's views about the sub-groups' proposals.

To help frame the sub-groups' discussions, the 2050 Steering Committee is assuming a 3 percent annual growth in Prescott - a rate that Wilson maintains is realistic, even with the prospect of future large-scale annexations.

While the year 2050 is the ultimate goal of the planning effort, Arnold said the sub-groups also likely will have shorter-term timeframes, and could make recommendations for the next five or 10 years.

And so far, Wilson says, the various groups are coming up with plenty of innovative ideas.

For instance, he and Arnold brought up the aging sub-group's idea to form a commission on aging to deal with the issues that will continue to arise with Prescott's aging population.

Suzi Anderson of the aging sub-group reported on Friday that the idea for such a commission has been central to her group's discussions.

While Anderson stressed that the committee has yet to make its final recommendations, she said group members have been especially concerned with issues such as how the community will provide all of the caregivers that will be necessary in coming years.

"It's such a complex issue," Anderson said of the projected future shortage of caregivers. Not only does it raise questions about how family members fit into the equation, but it also will overlap with housing and transportation issues.

To help deal with such matters, Anderson said the group came up with the idea of a seven- to nine-member commission on aging, which would work to follow through in the future.

The next meeting of the 2050 Steering Committee will take place at 6 p.m., Aug. 28, at Prescott City Hall.

By that time, Arnold expects to have a compilation of the results of a community survey that the 2050 project earlier conducted. Yavapai College's information technology department is working to compile the results of the nearly 1,500 completed surveys.

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