The Crestone Eagle, December 2005:

Second visit by Sonoran Institute refines planning focus

by Anne Silver

Saguache County land-use planners and members of the Crestone-Baca community had an intense day of meetings with Sonoran Institute representative Jim Spehar on November 9. A former County Commissioner and now council member of Grand Junction, Mr. Spehar didn’t mince words: “When you make a land-use decision, you are permanently altering the character of the community.”

Jim moderated two meetings: one with the major decision makers (the County Commissioners and representatives from the federal land agencies, School District, Town of Crestone, Water and Sanitation District, ScSEED, SLVREC, and the POA), and the second with groups and individuals who’ve been working steadily on long term planning issues.

The Sonoran Institute’s stated goal is to ‘promote community decisions that respect the land and people of the west’. This was their second visit to the area after an initial well-attended public meeting last May. This time a smaller group was invited to represent various definable ‘interest’ groups such as spiritual groups, business, environmental and property owners. We were asked to consider three questions about the growth of this community: what would we like to see happen, what are the major obstacles to this, and what might be solutions. Mr. Spehar assured us that the Sonoran Institute would trust our community, respecting us and our values.

Many suggestions were given about what was necessary to preserve a good place and make it even better. Along with the spiritual need to protect the wild beauty that we found here are human social and economic needs such as good schools and a viable economy. Business owners would like to see more of the consumer dollar staying in the community. Builders would like growth to be environmentally sound. Where might we put a second access to the Baca? The Crestone Baca Land Trust is trying to preserve wildlife corridors, which are owned privately and attractive to realtors and developers, by trading for land in less sensitive areas.

Obstacles to our ideals were expressed. Strife within the community is familiar to all of us. We bemoan our tendency to talk instead of act. Our short-sightedness, refusing to look beyond the present to the future generations is ‘only human’. Should we start with the idea that ‘the view from below is always better’ and see things from the perspective of those who do not have cars and housing. One person linked our lack of sustainability to over-consumption.

The meeting was a beginning at focusing our intentions and creating priorities. All involved, at both the morning and evening sessions, expressed a desire to continue with this collaborative process. The Sonoran Institute would build-in timelines and proven technical assistance, but the hard work and accountability is basically ours. The land use decisions don’t stop. We can be the victim of the inevitable changes in our place or rise to the challenge of shaping them. The Sonoran Institute would help us do that if the decision to work together is made.