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Yearlong planning process launched

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Last week, Delta County officially launched a yearlong process to update the Delta County Master Plan. A master plan provides the overall vision for how the built environment -- infrastructure, housing, transportation, recreation, business and industry -- support and complement the other less tangible aspects of community -- the economy, health, the environment and quality of life. On May 2, the Delta County Planning Commission, which is responsible for the master plan, met to review the planning process and timeline with Gabe Preston of RPI, the planning consultant selected to develop the plan. "This plan will be the people's plan," stated Dick Disner, chairman of the planning commission. "Our community needs development policies that are fair, predictable and based on a shared vision for the future of the county."

The county's current master plan, a 14-page document, was adopted in 1996. Since its adoption, the county's demographics and economy have changed. Following rapid population growth in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Great Recession of 2007 shifted the county's trends. The county's overall population has declined slightly despite many new residents relocating here attracted to Delta County's high quality of life. The closing of the mines left the county with nearly 1,000 fewer jobs. Community statistics indicate many of Delta County's residents are struggling. This fact is most evidenced within the Delta County Joint School District where the percentage of youth on free and reduced lunch has increased to 56.5 percent of the student population.

Change, while challenging, can be an opportunity. The county's new community and economic development director, Elyse Casselberry, a Western Slope native and seven-year Delta County resident, has been providing support to western Colorado communities for many years. "All communities have a choice." says Casselberry. "In Delta County, we can continue to react to trends or we can work together to maintain what we love about living here while building a more prosperous future for all of us." The master plan's public process provides residents that opportunity to begin to work together on this vision.

Beginning this month and continuing through the first week of June, the county is offering a variety of opportunities for residents to help shape a vision for Delta County's future. The county is hosting a series of property owner drops-ins, community visioning workshops and online engagement opportunities for residents to weigh in on questions about what they love about living here, their concerns and hopes for the future.

Five community meeting dates are scheduled between May 15 and May 23. The visioning workshops, to run from 6 to 8 p.m., will be dialogue oriented and focused on residents working together to create a shared vision for the future. The property owner drop-in events from 3 to 5 p.m. are more informal and provide property owners an opportunity to stop by to meet with RPI and county staff to discuss their specific questions about the master plan process. The format for all of the meetings are the same regardless of location or date. Residents are encouraged to attend the property owner drop-in or vision workshop in any of the locations based on when it is most convenient for their schedule.

Monday, May 15 -- Paonia Town Hall.

Wednesday, May 17 -- Cedaredge Community Center.

Thursday, May 18 -- Crawford Town Hall.

Monday, May 22 -- Memorial Hall, Hotchkiss.

Tuesday, May 23 -- Bill Heddles Recreation Center, Delta.

For residents unable to participate in the community meetings, online opportunities will be available beginning in mid-May with a discussion forum and vision questionnaire. "We really hope people can take the time to become involved." says Jen Sanborn, planning commissioner. "We have a lot of diverse opinions and perspectives across our county, but I believe we can find common ground and get things done. We may not have a long history of doing plans like this, but it is in all of our best interest to figure out how we can thrive as a community while also protecting the things that make Delta County so unique."

For more information on the Delta County Master Plan, go to www.deltacountyplan.com or contact Kelly Yeager, Delta County contract planner, at 874-2110.

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master plan, Planning Commission
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