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October 21, 2017
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SF County public planning effort lags work in other municipalities
(2008-08-14)
This evaluation represents the actual experiences of KSFR News reporters Dave Oboler and Marion Cox. Charts by Dan Gerrity
(KSFR) - -- Despite promises, efforts by Santa Fe County lag behind similar efforts by two governments in other states to involve citizens in creating new regulations to govern drilling and other development.

Project leaders in all three areas promised "transparency" and open communications with the public, a process all of them call essential to getting broad support. But a hands-on study done by KSFR News demonstrates a minimal and uncoordinated effort by Santa Fe County compared with the work done in Boise, Idaho, and Grand Junction, Colo.(The audio with Dave Obler, one of the authors of the study, describes the research process.)

Grand Junction is developing a plan to regulate and control future projected growth in this town of 45,000 and in immediately impacted portions of adjacent Mesa County. The area has a population of 150,000, similar to the size of Santa Fe County. The two-year project, which is on track to finish in early 2009, is being designed by a consultant team from Boulder under the direction of a veteran planner on the City's planning staff.

In Boise, and surrounding Ada County (total population of 345,000), planners are roughly 2-1/2 years into a plan that was begun by one of the consultants also employed by Santa Fe County - Kansas-based Planning Works.

Consultants to Santa Fe County have recommended a broad zoning ordinance to include not only oil and gas drilling but development of all types, as well. They began last February. The first draft recommendations are expected to be completed in September.

The KSFR News team over the course of several weeks compared the public outreach of all three county planning teams. The study included testing the usability and analyzing the quality of information on special websites set up by each government to involve the public and pass along new, updated information to the community.

The Idaho and Colorado websites contained the most useful information. They not only surpassed Santa Fe's in quality but in the frequency they are updated with new information. In addition, other means of communication were superior.

KSFR team members also identified through those websites planning officials to talk with by phone to get information. They report that they got the fastest and most thorough responses from planning staff members in Idaho and Colorado. Neither Santa Fe's staff planning professionals nor the planning consultants have been available by phone to discuss current issues and new developments.

In Santa Fe's case, among the findings by the team:

-- No evidence of an organized overall public outreach plan that has been or could be communicated to the public so that interested residents know how, when, and where to contribute and participate in this planning process.

-- No readily available information on work done or appearances made by lead consultant Robert Freilich in the period from February, when he was contracted, to early June.

-- No effective approach to publicly schedule and publicize meetings so as to meaningfully engage the public.

-- No identification of responsible staff member in charge.

-- No meeting agendas for a key county committee, despite a County Commission order to make them available.

-- Little specific evidence like that shown by other the other governments of how the public would be involved in the decision-making process.

-- No identification like that from the others of the identities of stakeholders in the process.

-- No evidence of the identities of the "more than 50 groups" consultants say they have met with.

-- Little substantive website information, compared with large amounts of data, meetings minutes, and meeting sign-in sheets found on the other websites.

-- No names or contact information for key project staff who can and will respond to public inquiries.

-- Website: Available Santa Fe project information is disorganized, split between two websites, and not easily accessible when only one site is publicly identified as "official" site."

Grand Junction web site.

Boise web site.

Santa Fe County planning web site.

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