Priorities & Perspectives

As Jessica was contemplating filing for City Council, the most important activity she felt she needed to do was this: listen. “I needed to discover if the community could meaningfully benefit from my service and skills; more importantly, however, I needed to know about what makes my community tick,” she indicates.  As such, Jessica conducted a discovery mission through over scores of interviews with Mapleton City leaders, employees, and citizens. She also sought wisdom from recognized leaders across the State on topics related to city planning, infrastructure, diversity, strategy, and, frankly, to buoy her confidence and find encouragement.

Jessica describes her process as a learning tour, “Win or lose, I’ve learned so much and built wonderful new relationships. Everyone should go through this process!”  She identifies her learning as the discovering of information, plans, pains, successes, failures, facts, opportunities, passions, frustrations, and admiration. “My brain and my notepads are full,” she jokes.

Based upon this experience, Jessica identified the following as community priorities:

  1. Set the Pace & Make it Stick
  2. Enjoy the Environment
  3. Plan, Plan, Plan
  4. Community Education is Key
  5. [Well-Planned] Commercial Zones

The first item on the list must be about the most frequently-used phrases in this process: change and zoning.

The discovery process revealed citizens concerned with “too much, too fast,” most of which has been driven by a perception of rampant rezoning.  Additional concerns included the general and zoning plans, the variety of zones, terminology flexibility (read: “high density” is a highly subjective term), and confusion with transfer of development rights (TDRs).

A 2019 update to the City’s plans, related terminology, and an educational strategy will:

  1. Engage citizens with accurate, easily consumable information.
  2. Empower the Planning Commission to establish precedents which align with the community interests and City needs, supported by clear guiding materials.
  3. Establish standards and expectations that parcels be developed as-zoned.
  4. Support long-term open-space goals and quality-of-life expectations.
  5. Promote effective long-term strategic planning.

Mapleton City’s culture derives from its parks, open spaces, arts, and recreational opportunities.  These are where we gather as friends, celebrate our ancestors, find tranquility and wellness, and cheer on our children. It doesn’t matter the terminology - semi-rural, country, low-density - what matters is that the heart of our community is found among our trees, across our fields, along our paths, and underneath the the lights and sounds of our Pioneer Day celebrations.  Any data junkie can tell you that it isn’t the water pressure or the rooftops count that keeps people in love with this community; it’s the feeling we get just being here. [That’s good data, too.] Let’s make sure to keep protecting [and funding] that feeling...and maybe invest in the arts a little bit, too!

As a strategist, the City’s current initiatives to assess its health (e.g., financial analysis, infrastructure planning) brought me great enthusiasm! When these studies are completed, the City will have unbiased data to inform short- and long-term planning to maintain our reserves, bolster services, evaluate fee structures, and mitigate crises.

The key here will be to integrate these findings into updated plans (strategic, economic development, general, etc.), solicit community feedback, and identify strategies to successful implementation. One noticeable gap is through the absence of regular City Council work sessions.  Quarterly (or more often) work sessions will help the City Council evaluate progress, determine needs, and discuss challenges on a more in-depth basis.

In my conversations with citizens, I've discovered an interest in collaborative agreements with neighboring communities to access resources through reciprocity. Integrating shared resources into planning may allow the city to allocate related resources to priority infrastructure needs.

While a one-on-one education session is hardly an effective use of resources for the City, the City has made strides in diversify educational tools (e.g., social media).  To empower citizens with accurate information, an understanding of the governance process, and an awareness of opportunities to be engaged, the City should continue expanding its communication plan.  To do so may include increasing the frequency and contents of social media posts, establishing neighborhood-friendly and reusable signage, increasing website functionality, expanding the monthly newsletter contents, and developing a Mapleton 101 course series.  For example, Planning Commission and City Council meeting agendas and minutes may be shared in social media and the monthly newsletter may include factoids and “how tos” on municipal governance to spark interest in a Mapleton 101 course series.  Additionally, City Council members should regularly share important and educational information with the community through social media or related methods.

As much as the City and the City Council may improve communication and educational strategies, it's imperative we residents take it upon ourselves to be educated and informed. Municipal governance may seem complicated, but the policy-driven processes are reasonably systematic. I have found our City employees engaging and welcoming towards my interviews.  As such, I encourage any concerned or interested citizen to meet with department heads as part of our shared responsibility in building and sustaining our community. Their doors are indeed open!

There, I said it.  I realize this isn’t going to be the most popular item on this list, but it also helps us protect some of our most prized amenities. Frankly, I would be ignorant not to recommend supporting commerce in defined pockets (read: namely along Highway 89). If we want to maintain great roads and services, we need this tax base, too.  [However, no big boxes, please.]

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