Implementation already in the works
Photo by: 
Kate Gienapp
Councilor Diego Plata converses with community members during the Comprehensive Plan overview last week.
Councilor Diego Plata converses with community members during the Comprehensive Plan overview last week.

Growth management, preferred development locations and green building are some of the highlights of the City of Gunnison’s draft Comprehensive Plan, which city leaders are unveiling to the community.

Consultants from the Chicago-based consulting firm Houseal Lavigne Associates — who assisted in drafting the plan — were on hand to present the latest vision for Gunnison 2030 resulting from a yearlong scope of work. 

“This is a blueprint for the city,” explained consultant Josh Koonce at a community open house on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

A Comprehensive Plan is a document that aids in the development and growth of a community — in this case over the next decade. The city’s plan touches on elements such as housing, sustainability, land use and the economy. 

Although city leaders have worked with stakeholders in the last year to identify key goals for the future, much of the document builds upon previous work — such as the Gunnison Vibrancy Initiative and a valley-wide 2016 Housing Needs Assessment. 

The more than 100 page document provides a framework for decision-making on growth and any proposed changes in the community. 

Community Development Director Anton Sinkewich noted one of the major aspects of the plan as it relates to growth as identifying “growth boundaries” — or areas both in and surrounding the City of Gunnison that could potentially be developed. 

“An overarching theme that we heard time and time again is that infill is preferred,” explained Sinkewich. “This is based on the premise of growing first within the city before expanding outward in a very controlled and concise manner.”

The Comprehensive Plan outlines areas within the city limits which are opportune for growth. It also examines land three miles beyond city boundaries ripe for development, likely to comprise a “three-mile plan.” 

Maintaining open space surrounding the City of Gunnison was a top priority in terms of growth, which is why infill within city limits was one of the first priorities identified in public input, said Sinkewich. Infill development, he explained, can utilize existing infrastructure as well as creating dense and compact neighborhoods to further preserve open space and prevent sprawl. The plan specifically identifies three areas of growth in the next decade: the 16-acre affordable housing project on the Lazy K parcel and another 200-acre area of vacant land near Thornton Way, both in west Gunnison; as well as Gunnison Rising — a 633 acre development site on the city’s eastern edge.

Another key area of interest marked in the plan is sustainability and environment — a theme that intersects the entirety of the document. On a small scale, the plan incentivizes green building practices as a part of sustainable construction, enhancing local parks and open space. It notes the city will continue to partner with Western Colorado University as a “sustainability sounding board.”

The plan also sets a goal to reduce waste delivered to the landfill by 20 percent in 2025 on top of growing the population without a net-increase to water consumption by 2030. It addresses greenhouse gas emissions with aims to achieve a 20 percent reduction in aggregate emissions — which can include emissions from energy use, transportation and operations.

“That chapter is still open for development — it relates to water, waste, energy and carbon emissions,” explained City Manager Russ Forrest.

The city’s plan for 2030 began last year with community engagement from various stakeholders to define and address seven key focus areas including image and identity, land use and growth, transportation and transit, housing, economic prosperity, environment and sustainability and community facilities and infrastructure.

According to Koonce, in 2019 there were more than 550 instances when people participated during a variety of public input sessions. That number does not reflect the number of individuals however — simply the number of times engagement occurred.

“That’s really great representation, considering the size of the city,” added Koonce. 

Certain goals encompassed within the comprehensive plan have already been achieved, including changes to the city’s land development code to promote growth, density, and affordable homes.

City leaders are now collaborating with the county and other vested stakeholders to refine plans for the the City of Gunnison in coming months. One such goal is to craft an intergovernmental agreement with Gunnison County which will guide development in the three-mile radius of the city.

(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or kate@gunnisontimes.com

 

> To learn more about the City of Gunnison’s Comprehensive Plan visit http://www.hlplanning.com/portals/gunnison/