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Residents’ input sought on county master plan

Upcoming meeting will be held at fairgrounds as officials solicit feedback


Planning Commission Chair Dan Rosales wants at least 5,000 Elbert County residents to take part in the feedback process for the Elbert County Master Plan.

“We’re probably at 300 so far — that’s just a guesstimate,” Rosales said.

Although Design Workshop, the vendor hired to assist the county in creating the updated master plan, says that number reflects the typical 1.5 percent of participation, Rosales isn’t content with it.

Rosales is hopeful that the meeting room at the Elbert County Fairgrounds in Kiowa will be filled to capacity at the third public meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15.

“More public input from the stakeholders is still needed,” he said. “It’s lacking.”

At the second public meeting, “we had a fairly good slice of what the county looks like, with people from Agate and Simla there too,” Rosales said.

That meeting was intended to educate citizens about how the various options for Elbert County would impact the long-term picture.

For example, if homes were set around the middle section of the county near Agate and Simla, with large acreage properties for everyone, the financial strain on the county to support the roads and bridges for such a scattered population would be tremendous and unrealistic, Rosales said.

The master plan, he said, is not going to be designed to discourage growth but manage it.

“It’s coming, whether we like it or not,” Rosales said, “our job is to control the growth of commercial and economic expansion. But if we don’t get participation from the community, they can’t really complain if they didn’t provide their opinions and suggestions.”

The current master plan was written in 1996, and is the “foundational document — a lot of what it states is still valid,” he said.

“We’re going to modify,” Rosales said, “but the things about housing and transportation are still valid today.”

The commission has also determined it needs to clarify the nature of the document by eliminating the previous legal-sounding jargon it included.

“It’s not a legal document,” Rosales said.

To that end, Rosales said that the commission is changing the document from a negative to a positive one.

“We’re not making a legislative document,” he said. “So we are changing all the `shall nots’ and `shalls’ to `should’ or `should be encouraged to.’ It’s a more positive tone.”

He added: “We want to make it a positive document instead of a `you shall not.’ Where it says, `you shall’ we will use `should’ or `encourage.’”

In addition to the public meetings there will be stakeholder meetings throughout November and December. These will be geared toward specific groups such as roads and bridges, housing, developers and county officials.

“We will gather the date to help us make decisions,” Rosales said.

Although the master plan is not a legal document, it will be a major reference point when the planning commission takes on the task of creating zoning and land use regulations.

“We want those to mirror the master plan,” Rosales said, “that’s why it’s so important that we get input.”

The survey to provide feedback is currently offline, but a new survey will be going live prior to the next public meeting.

In the meantime, citizens can go to ElbertCountyCompPlan.com to look at the documents and educational information the planning commission has uploaded.

The Nov. 15 master plan public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Elbert County Fairgrounds on the north side of Kiowa. It is recommended people arrive at 6 p.m. to get informational documents and seating.


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