The Archuleta Community Vision Work Group met with the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday to discuss the next steps in creating a community vision for the future — gaining town support and conducting a “place audit” of the community.
Tuesday’s meeting was scheduled following an Oct. 27 work session in which the work group presented its findings after a review of existing documents to determine if a cohesive vision existed on which Archuleta County could base a plan for the future.
The time between meetings allowed the BoCC to evaluate the initial findings, and gave the work group time to make plans for a possible next step in the process.
A significant portion of the discussion during the work session echoed discussion at the prior work session — the need for the project to move forward, versus being shelved along with past studies, surveys and other related documents.
“Most of the documents we have are very broad, philosophical statements. There’s no real plan that says, ‘Here’s goals, here’s objectives and here’s tasks,’” said group member Rick Bellis. “We never get to tasks, which are measurable, agreed upon and finite, so you don’t really know if you’re getting closer to that vision at the end.”
After looking over the group’s initial findings, Commissioner John Ranson questioned if the Pagosa area was indeed a place for visitors or residents to “escape from a stressful world to a special place,” a finding presented in the first report given to the BoCC.
Ranson also noted that a finding that 2.5 jobs per household are needed to maintain housing in Archuleta County surprised him as he pondered the question of the area being an escape.
Patsy Lindblad, work group leader, agreed, saying a lot of people move here for the lifestyle, then “things change because reality sets in on what life is really like here as far as the economy is concerned.”
Lindblad cited the higher cost of living, gas and food, and a lack of some resources available locally.
“It becomes Purgatory for the residents,” she said.
“Economic reality hits,” added Commissioner Bob Moomaw.
Along the same lines, the group bandied about the need for a vital middle class in the area and how to create it.
Group member Thad Cano likened the lack of a middle class to an inverse bell curve, adding that it was unhealthy and the gap needed to be bridged.
An economy needs to be designed to attract those who would make up the middle class, Bellis said.
Lindblad added that the community needs to build and develop what’s already available, after which Moomaw likened the situation to a “chicken-and-egg scenario” — one demanding both economic development and the presence of a middle class, saying that looking at economic development alone could take a long time.
The community needs something for people to see that lets them think the town is going places, Ranson indicated, adding later that the product hasn’t been found.
“What can you use as the lure?” Morgan Murri asked.
Group member Karin Kohake noted that it’s easy to attract people to the community, but said she is amazed by the inability to retain people, a sentiment of sustainability Archuleta County Attorney Todd Starr echoed.
Much of the discussion also centered around the need to involve Town of Pagosa Springs staff, council members and residents in the vision process, as well as other county communities and groups working on similar projects.
Kohake noted that involving the town and residents of the town are what makes it a community vision.
While group members noted that elected leaders need to be a major player in the process, Ranson said the vision effort should be private, with the support of government leaders. All agreed it is imperative that town and county work together.
“I would be ecstatic if this could bring the town and county together,” Moomaw said.
In the end, it was decided that the vision group’s leader, Lindblad, will approach the town council at its next meeting, to indicate a group is ready and willing to work on the problem with the council’s support.
After approaching the town, the work group hopes to move forward with a “place audit” which, as a document accompanying Lindblad’s discussion of the idea states, is a “systematic examination of economic/demographic characteristics and current trends that might influence the setting of vision scenarios.”
According to the document, the audit would include:
• A “Community Fact Book” to look in more depth at demographics, the housing market, labor market, natural resources, transportation facilities, public safety and crime statistics, and more.
• A competitive analysis to “figure out how to improve the odds over peer and superior competitors.”
• A target market analysis to determine target markets of the area and perceptions of buyers on the community.
• A trends analysis identifying the main trends and developments likely to affect, including national and state funding, environmental forces and regulations and STEEP (social, technological, economic, environmental and political) factors on a national and regional scale.
• A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis identifying relative strengths and weaknesses in terms of what buyers are looking for in order to evaluate the competitiveness of the community.