Completion of Farmington's comprehensive plan delayed until March

Plan originally was to have been sent to City Council in November

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Completion of the city's new comprehensive plan, a document intended to guide development in Farmington for the next 20 years, has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • City officials began the process of updating the plan in July 2019.
  • Issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have slowed progress on the plan.
  • The plan is designed to guide the city's development for the next 20 years.

FARMINGTON — Just as it has with countless other projects and events, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a hitch into the City of Farmington's plans to release an updated version of its comprehensive plan before the end of the year.

City officials began the process of updating the plan in July 2019 and anticipated having it finished and approved by the City Council by November 2020. As recently as late March, that was still the plan, even after the onset of the pandemic.

But Beth Escobar, Farmington's planning manager, acknowledged this week the city has moved the finish line for the new plan to March 2021 because of the issues associated with COVID-19.

"The main reason for that is that we have been handicapped with public participation," she said.

While some work on the update has continued over the past seven months, with virtual meetings of the technical and steering committee being held, Escobar compared that progress to taking baby steps and said it just hasn't been feasible to compile the quantity or quality of public input that is so important to the new plan.

"We need to know what the public sees as the future for Farmington," she said. "We need that input."

Local residents will have their chance to offer additional input on the city's new long-range plan at a series of small, public gatherings over the next few months before the plan is submitted to the City Council in March.

Even with the pandemic continuing indefinitely, city officials have a plan for gathering that feedback. Escobar said city residents would have chances to offer their thoughts on the future of Farmington at a series of virtual meetings and at a handful of small "pop-up" meetings that could be held at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park or the Farmington Public Library in the months ahead. Visitors would have the chance to examine land-use maps and offer their thoughts on the plan's goals and objectives.

Those meetings would be come-and-go affairs, with small numbers of people drifting in and out over a period of several hours, rather than an event designed to attract dozens of residents all at once.

Farmington officials held a large, public Jolt Our Future meeting in late January at the Farmington Civic Center to spark discussion and explore opportunities for expanding the city's economic base, with such topics as outdoor recreation, the film industry, broadband connectivity and the city's suitability as a retirement community being covered. That event drew more than 200 people, Escobar said, while a series of questionnaires that have been posted on the city's website have drawn hundreds of responses.

As pleased as city officials were with the turnout at that January event, they know there is no way to duplicate that response while the pandemic forces residents to practice social distancing.

"I don't know that we've reached the comfort level for the public to come out yet, so we are trying to accommodate that" by planning the series of smaller and virtual meetings, Escobar said.

Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett talks about the format for the Jolt Our Future event on Jan. 30 at the Farmington Civic Center.

Once the feedback from those planned events is processed and collated, Logan Simpson — the Fort Collins, Colorado-based firm that is leading the process — will produce a draft plan that will undergo additional public review. She said several elements of the plan already are in place, but a final version of the plan won't be sent to the council for consideration until March.

The city last produced a comprehensive plan in 2002, and a new version is typically released every 20 years or so. The document is designed to guide the city's development for that period.

The process of producing the new comprehensive plan was divided into four phases, three of which have been completed. Escobar said the city now has started the fourth and final phase, which includes creation of the draft plan, the public outreach meetings, and public hearings and adoption of the plan.

The City of Farmington hosted Jolt Our Future to talk about the future of the city on Jan. 30 at the Farmington Civic Center.

City officials originally planned to unveil the draft plan on Sept. 5 during the Totah Festival & Indian Market, but that event was cancelled because of the pandemic.

To review the progress on the plan so far, visit the comprehensive plan page on the city's website at fmtn.org/917/2040-Comprehensive-Plan. The page includes a link to the city's future land use plan and offers visitors a chance to comment on the draft plan.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.