At this week’s City Council meeting, Y2 Analytics (who conducted and analyzed data) and Landmark Design (the project lead) presented their findings (HERE) from the survey phase of the General Plan Land Use Element Update and Parks and Recreation Master Plan Update. As I’ve reviewed the presentation and related findings from two data sets (the statistically valid survey aligning with voter record demographics and having over 400 respondents; the open survey with over 200 respondents), I’ve developed a series of generalizations describing the preferences of the average Mapleton citizen. This persona is grounded in simple majority and mean data, resulting in what I perceive are working truths.
Working Truths (According to Jessica)
- While we believe our quality of life is high (in fact, the highest Y2 had seen in years), we are concerned about a potential decline or are currently perceiving a level of decline in that quality. Concerns related to growth are the primary driver of these perceptions.
- We love Mapleton’s small-town atmosphere and rural characteristics.
- We enjoy our parks, trails, and community events and are concerned about preserving existing open spaces and the character of our city.
- We would prioritize resource allocation to road maintenance, infrastructure improvements, and our parks, trails, and open spaces. (Not in the same order for both data sets, but the top three choices were consistent.)
- We do not recommend spending [additional] resources on our community events and library. (My assumption here is this reflects our present satisfaction of these resources.)
- Citizens are torn about commercial development. However, most citizens support principles friendly to its growth: 64% of the statistically valid survey respondents and 53% of the open survey respondents agree that increasing opportunity for commercial development when determining residential units per acre is important.
- We believe commercial growth is happening at an appropriate level, but there are citizen groups who think it is too slow and citizen groups who think commercial growth is too fast.
- No matter our view on its speed, we agree commercial development is best to grow organically and along Highway 89.
- We’d prefer accessory units and preservation or rehabilitation of moderate-income housing to adding multi-family housing. However, we’re amenable to having multi-family housing above commercial properties in commercial zones.
- Since a grocery store is coming, our next preferences are, in order, for more restaurants, professional services, and offices. We don’t want industrial or entertainment businesses.
- We need to explore the uses included in our conditional use permit code. (This is in progress.)
- We like medium and large lot sizes, with our favorite residential lot size between ½ to 1 acre.
- We want some design flexibility in our residential zones, but support basic aesthetic standards.
- We actively use our city parks and open spaces, especially Mapleton City Park and Ira Allen Sports Park.
- We want to preserve existing natural open spaces and we’d like our parks or programmed spaces in residential areas.
- We love our trails and want more! (We are even willing to pay a monthly fee to support preservation and growth of trails and open spaces.)
Limitations to surveys such as this include the subjectivity of surveying and the varied level of information or education that qualifies respondents. For example, the average citizen responding to this survey is likely not skilled in all of these areas: land use, civil engineering, economy, accounting, and recreation management. As such, our opinions are often weighted by feeling more than in fact. Lest you think this isn’t important, I want to be clear: it’s as important to understand the heart of our community as it is to understand the science of our community. Fortunately, this process aligns with this philosophy and we have the opportunity to merge the heart with the science and best practices of planning.
I consider this review to be cursory and have recommended a series of deeper dives to better understand our residents and their preferences. For example, understanding the demographic characteristics of who-said-what and how those characteristics correlated with their preferences will reveal nuances of our community that we cannot see without a bivariate or multivariate statistical analysis. Likewise, we must look at the data from different angles. A good example of this is when considering data about participation in sports activities through Parks and Recreation, it would be wise to exclude respondents with no children at home and recalculate the data considering only respondents with children at home, increasing the validity of the response by aligning the programming with the target audience. Another example includes investigating how the area of the city in which the respondent resides correlates with preferences. For example, do residents on the east side perceive commercial development differently than those on the west side of the City? A neighborhood-level perspective adds valuable context to tell the story of our community. Both the City and Y2 are reviewing the deep-dive recommendations. However, it’s important to be cognizant that this element is only one tool of many sophisticated tools in this process, so I don’t want to fall into the trap of analysis paralysis either – there is plenty to be done!
During their presentation, Y2 identified one Mapletonism that I think is poignant moving forward: we value natural elements more than the average community does. Our priorities for open space and trails trump amenities other communities often clamor to obtain, including expensive recreational facilities. While most of the findings aligned with what was expected, this confirmation validates some assumptions about our priorities. However, the findings also invalidate other assumptions I’ve seen suggested, particularly the comment that “no one wants commercial development.” This is, in fact, not true. A more accurate statement would be that “no one wants rampant commercial development.”
The next steps in the process are a committee meeting and then a public workshop in February. When the workshop date is announced, block that time to participate. Additionally, to improve your capacity to contribute in a meaningful way, spend time studying our guiding documents, including our master plan, maps, and other strategic documents. (I’m working on a Resources page to provide quick access to these and other most-requested information housed at the Mapleton City website.)
Call to Action
Lastly, one of the most important opportunities we each have in sustaining our small-town atmosphere is increasing our personal connections. I challenge you to meet with at least two City leaders and/or staff this year to learn, discuss, help us solve problems, and build relationships. Likewise, consider attending at least two meetings (City Council, Planning Commission) to participate and to observe the decision-making processes.
Do you have any recommendations or requests for future content or new resources? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or, if this is regarding official Mapleton City business, reach me at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: Statements and positions on this website are not intended to reflect the official statements and positions of Mapleton City.