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The master plan

Editorial

Tuesday will be an important day for Douglas County.

Tuesday marks the start of the 2001 master plan amendment cycle. While master plan changes always carry potentially critical implications, this particular series is crucial due to the time and topics.

Douglas County is in the process of updating its 1996 master plan. The five-year update is the first comprehensive review of the plan and will tell leaders if the plan is taking Douglas County where residents want it to go.

Already, residents are expressing concerns about long-term access to public lands, availability of sewer and water service and lot sizes.

Coincidentally, the county planning commission’s first action item Tuesday deals with where and how development rights can be exercised and the definition of urban service areas – in other words, how to manage growth.

The day will end with a request for a change that would allow an upscale subdivision and golf course in the forest above Jacks Valley. At best, the project could mean a permanent easement granting access to the forest land beyond and become an example of balancing natural open space and development. At worst, it could be another barrier to public access and spoil a lovely landscape.

As they deliberate, planners will hear promises and assurances that the changes they are asked to make will not interfere with the master plan’s integrity. They may be tempted to focus on the fine details and policy debates that accompany such decisions.

The average person is baffled by bureaucratic terms like “density bonuses” and “receiving areas.” But they know exactly what more houses mean, especially when the houses are blocking access to public land.

Planning board members should focus on the principles and keep the broader impacts in mind instead of allowing themselves to get bogged in the minutiae. Save the philosophical debates for the academics, and give us a plan we can understand.