Coffee talks to focus on planning and zoning
September 29, 2015
Once a month, lead staffers in the Summit County Planning Department will be hosting informal gatherings with members of the public to discuss planning and zoning issues.
Friday, Peter Barnes, Summit County Planning and Zoning administrator, and Pat Putt, the county’s community development director, were at Hugo Coffee for more than an hour. About six people attended, Putt said.
"What I am trying to accomplish is: How we can get information out to the public so people are out in front of issues rather than reacting to them?" Putt said. "How do we get out in front of that in a way that’s meaningful? We think it’s a good idea for the community to have access to us outside regular meetings."
The gatherings were initiated to provide people with another forum to question, complain and comment on a range of issues, Putt said, before adding that no decisions will be made during these discussions.
Putt and Julie Booth, the county’s public information officer, organized the monthly meetings, which will be held Friday mornings at various locations throughout the county.
"If people want to find out more about a project they may have heard about, if people just had a really good idea, they could come in and talk," Putt said. "It will be a great opportunity to hear how people in the community are feeling about particular issues whether it’s design, transportation or housing."
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Putt said he fielded suggestions about improving the flow of traffic on State Road 224 and comments about wildlife fencing around the Summit Park area. He also said a couple attended to ask about mitigating measures that the county could implement to reduce the noise from S.R. 224.
"We want to make sure we were creating an environment where we just have conversations with people and do it in a way that we are listening more than talking. That was the general idea behind it," Putt said.
There are several ways for people to reach out to the planning department now, including during the public input portion of the County Council meetings, via email and through the county website’s ‘Let us know’ portal. However, Putt said the county "owes it to the community to provide more than the same old ways of communicating."
"Sometimes you have to carve out more from your time to be present," Putt said. "Some days, people won’t show up and other days people will want to share their thoughts. I would rather be yelled at for something than run the risk of being part of an organization that doesn’t go out to the community."
Tom Fisher, Summit County manager, said he supports the gatherings as a way of furthering transparency, while also having staffers spend more time in the community. Fisher said he plans on attending at least one of the gatherings.
"It brings more awareness to planning uses and those unique things communities deal with," Fisher said. "With this and getting that direct feedback, we can make these processes better for the individuals that go through it and the community. These types of activities can get more information out to the public so they know more about what is going on."
The next gathering will be Oct. 14 from 8:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. at the Mirror Lake Diner in Kamas. A meeting is also scheduled for Nov. 6. The location will be announced at a later date.
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