A proposed "Downtown Gateway" project now has a $135,000 budget after city council approved $75,000 in additional funds, but officials seem unsure exactly how to jump start the project and plans remain nebulous.
The proposed gateway incorporates two elements — a sign post with 30 or more pointers to places of interest and a pair of entry monuments at each end of Main Street in downtown to welcome motorists and pedestrians.
Mayor Tommy Roberts said he supported the project and commended Elizabeth Isenberg, the city's government relations director, on her work.
"We have a unique downtown," Isenberg said. "We have one of the prettiest downtowns in New Mexico, but it is very disparate."
The classical western architecture and small town aura of Farmington's downtown, which is pedestrian friendly, should be a boon to businesses, she said.
Although city council agreed that action was needed to improve the area, Councilman Jason Sandel was not convinced that a gateway would be the most effective method.
"I'm left with a lack of direction," Sandel said. "What are we doing? I'm concerned we are going to reallocate funds without understanding. I'm not sure a gateway will make downtown more friendly."
The gateway project could complement a "complete streets" concept presented to city council in December 2012, he said.
Complete streets aims
Metropolitan planning organizations in Las Cruces, Santa Fe and Albuquerque have all passed complete streets resolutions.
The complete streets concept began as a reaction to automobile dependence in the United States. Oregon became the first state to adopt the policy when it passed a 1971 bill requiring that roads accommodate bicycles and pedestrians.
National supporters of complete streets claim that implementing the program improves safety, lowers transportation costs, encourages good health, creates a sense of place through increased social interaction and raises property values.
Multiple projects can all work toward implementing a complete streets policy in Downtown Farmington, Roberts said.
But some Farmington residents are not pleased with city council's decision.
Residents responding to a post on the Daily Times Facebook page about the gateway project said the city first needs to address safety concerns by tearing down dilapidated buildings and addressing the number of homeless and drunks that roam the area, they said.
Nonetheless, the city's community development department is looking forward to moving ahead with the project.
The city issued a "request for proposal" for the gateway project last year, said Mary Holton, department director, but funding constraints prevented the city from moving forward. The additional $75,000 allowed the project to continue.
City committees are working on a design to bring before the Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Commission and city council for approval, she said.