Union Neighborhood Vision Plan

Planning Commission Case: PL-19-001
To adopt the Union Neighborhood Vision Plan as an Implementation Plan and recommend approval by City Council.

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Online comments open until 5:00 PM MDT 9/24/19.

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I initially became aware of these Union Corridor meetings because I was both registered with Lakewood Together and live in the Green Mountain Village 1 neighborhood immediately south of Alameda and Union, so the Next Door post showed up on my feed. Thank you to City Council for requiring Planning to restart the meetings with a wider notification! Although I am in the neighborhood immediately south, I live one block south of Exposition, which Planning chose as the southern boundary for Union Corridor "neighbors," and on the map question where I chose my residence location from the areas noted, I was forced to enter Other.

The meetings were on the whole polite (I attended all but one of the series) but highly orchestrated and it was obvious that Planning employees did not want group discussion. They would almost always quickly shut down the public's many questions, and definitely did so if any murmurs of agreement began to build. One of the first questions at the first meeting (that was permitted before we were shut down) was "What about the traffic contribution of any further development?" We were told the traffic study had already been done. Holly pointed to a thick document on the floor in the corner and said we were welcome to read it.

For each meeting there was an associated survey online or attenders could answer the survey in person at the meetings. Comment space for the paper version of the survey seemed much less than what was given online. Attenders were given survey sheets that coordinated with large illustrated exhibit boards featuring survey questions. Next to each exhibit board were typically large writing pads. Planning employees manned the pads and wrote down comments from attenders. We had to stand in each line to comment to or ask a question of the employee at each pad, and if the person at the front had a lot to say, attenders would eventually give up and wander away. This happened frequently, so what words ended up on paper reflected just a few people. With employees in charge of the pens, they had all editorial power.

After each meeting Planning would send by email links to the results of the previous survey. When I saw Planning's conclusions in text form to the public's responses, at one point I was so pleasantly surprised that I wrote on the next meeting's survey "You Listened!" I'd like to take that response back.

I sacrificed valuable evening time to go to these meetings. We gave our opinions on brick color and storefront style, etc., all very understandable. I did not attend the last meeting but took the online survey instead and was probably one of the first to do so. The survey this time asked what shouldn't be allowed in the specifically abbreviated zoning area. Not knowing what "XXX" meant here and "XXY" there, how could I answer? In my comments on the survey I expressed my frustration that it was like attending a very boring class all semester and the final exam was in Greek since there was no reference to the zoning abbreviations and their definitions. I noticed when I looked at the online survey later that Planning had hastily added links to the zoning definitions. A responder would have to study the long Planning terminology list to be able to answer intelligently because the survey was written in urban planning language. When results of the online survey for that last meeting came out, I could see there just weren't many responses. The main point of agreement of survey responses throughout the process was a dislike of any more apartment buildings loading the Union corridor with more people and traffic.

This process left a bad impression with me. I think Planning is generally "checking the box" on requirements to involve the public, but actually doesn't desire our input and has predetermined goals that Planning is intent on reaching. With all the responses against more apartment buildings, somehow Planning wants more apartments built anyway. Residents to the west of the Union Corridor were left in the dark on this process. There would be maybe 10-20 people in attendance at the meetings, usually the same people. Anyone within 3 miles of the Union corridor has a big stake in how it is developed, since so many residents travel it in the course of a week. The focus area should have been much greater. It is foolish to think that only someone within a few blocks of Union cares about development impacts. But then again, Planning didn't really want a lot of response!

09/17/2019 12:03 pm
Denise Luepschen
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