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Planning Commission needs to focus on future

by staff

All eyes are on the future, and the future of Douglas County is ready for shaping by a group of regular residents from all walks of life: The Douglas County Planning Commission.

The County Commissioners, who choose the planning commissioners, have made it known that they would like the planning board to focus on balancing economic and agricultural interests and preserving the green fields that bring – and keep – so many people here. The planners have responded by leading a series of workshops on open space, but that’s just a start.

To really make a difference, the planners need to study open space the way they studied the master plan. The policies and recommendations they make need to be pieces of a puzzle that, when assembled in 20 years, will show forethought and fairness, a sincere effort to enhance our communities.

And for that to happen, the planners themselves need to make an important change. In the past several months, their meetings have been marked by interpersonal politics that result in domination of discussions by one or two members who find an ax to grind. Instead of agreeing to disagree, some board members seem to take conflicts personally and either drown out or withdraw from discussion with their counterparts.

A county commissioner said it best back in August 1999 when the planners were first urged to focus on open space: “Do you want to endlessly debate the merits of a 6-foot yard setback, or do you want to change your community forever? I think the county commission and the community is hungry for your input.”

We are. We want to see a thoughtful, courteous board whose actions we can believe are well researched and thought-out.

Two new members will join the seven-member board Tuesday. Both want to have a positive, lasting impact. We think the board can do that, if members can stop bickering over the small stuff and focus on what really matters: the future.