Jackson Hole resident Don Harger makes several important points about Teton County’s growth and planning: Our residents want to be knowledgeable about the process; we have strong neighborhood groups; it is difficult for many people to attend meetings or understand the complexities of the planning process.
Last December, I read a news article about a New England town and its novel approach to planning. The New York Times piece not only described part of a community’s growth planning strategy; it tied in the town’s recognition of the importance of public art in planning. Public art is a hot topic here in Jackson Hole; public art is controversial in many urban areas simply because the arts are so subjective. They’re an opinion, a view.
Here’s a summation of that article:
Starksboro, Vermont is finding out what town qualities its residents wish to preserve by recruiting Middlebury College students; the students spend a semester canvassing residents. They document community thoughts and preferences regarding growth. The town will use that information to help steer planning.
Said the Orton Foundation’s spokesman John Barstow, “We’re trying to make a process where more people who don’t go to meetings and aren’t speaking up and are not activists have a chance to express what is important to them.”
A Middlebury professor, John Elder, noted, “The key is to project beyond immediate controversies over applications for subdivisions and to say, ‘Let’s envision the future that we would love to have,’ at which point there is considerable agreement.”
The article goes on to say that another problem rural Vermont faces is losing young people to states with significantly more jobs and housing. The students found that parents raise their children to leave Starksboro, and few young people attended town meetings.
The project is to culminate in a special town forum, where students present their findings. The Orton Family Foundation and the Vermont Land Trust will pay for an artist-in-residence, “…with the goal of helping the town create a lasting piece of art, music or writing that reflects its hopes for the future.” Orton said the company would provide more funds to incorporate changes in land use.
Jackson’s population is about four times that of Starksboro’s. Fewer opinions bouncing about, but what folks there seem to have agreed upon is that public art can be successfully created within a public planning system. Planning for public art space is thinking forward; that’s good for comprehensive planning.