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Publish Date: 4/17/2005

City’s focus on the future
220 residents attend Longmont summit


LONGMONT — They came from many walks of life, bound by a common desire to improve the city in which they live.

A stay-at-home mom mingled with a former mayor. Developers discussed their childhoods with retired salesmen and accountants. College students chatted with community activists.

Sponsored by the Longmont City Council, more than 220 people filled the main ballroom at the Radisson Hotel on Saturday to discuss how they think Longmont can be made a better city. The idea was to put a bunch of unconnected people in a room together and see what ideas they have in common.

The “Focus on Longmont” summit and ongoing strategic planning intended to provide city leaders with the direction they need to make smart decisions about the future. In 20 years, Longmont will have pretty much finished building all the houses it expects to see, and few new shops will be opening.

Those changes will mean a tightening of the amount of money the city has available to buy open space, build recreation centers and provide programs for seniors for its ultimate population of about 101,000. The city has about 81,000 residents today.

“This is all about planning. And to do that effectively, you have to look at resources,” Mayor Julia Pirnack said at the start of the day-long summit. “There’s got to be a balance. There’s got to be a way, with all the brains in this room ... that we can find a balance.”

For the past several months, smaller discussion groups have been holding “community conversations” to tease out some central themes to the city's success.

The themes selected were:

nquality natural environment

•celebrating together

•engaged community

•facilitative city leadership

•small-town feel

•and opportunity for all.

Saturday’s summit built from those themes, with participants breaking into small groups to discuss specifically why they like Longmont, and what they want to see the city do more or less of.

Clarissa Edelen said she and her husband felt forced into moving to Longmont when they first arrived from Vermont. Her husband is a custom home builder and an extreme skier, so Edelen said they wanted to live on the Front Range. They wanted to live in Boulder but found it was too expensive.

“I moved (to Longmont) thinking this was the only town I would never want to live in,” Edelen said. “From what we heard, it was a community that wasn’t happening, with a lot of violence, lots of people who were uneducated. It wasn’t until we started looking for houses that we realized what it had.”

Edelen said her dramatic shift in attitude arrived once she started getting involved. She said she appreciates its commitment to downtown, to historic buildings, to open space and parks and recreation, and a city council willing to listen to residents’ suggestions. She said government grants awarded to spruce up her neighborhood, Bohn Farm, are another reason to like the city.

“It was easy to see that as an individual, you could make changes happen,” Edelen said.

Edelen’s story is the kind of tale the summit’s facilitators wanted to hear because it focuses attention on what makes people like Longmont.

And once people know what they like, they can start to decide how to shape the community to make it more reflect their hopes and expectations, said summit facilitator Amanda Trosten-Bloom, of the Corporation for Positive Change

“People will be imagining what they would like the community of Longmont will look like down the road,” she said. “It will be both general and detailed.”

The Longmont City Council in October is expected to start making policy decisions based on the information gathered at Saturday’s summit.

Former Mayor Leona Stoecker said the “visioning” process was important for the city. She said she was pleased that so many people seemed interested in improving the downtown Main Street area.

“It needs to be expanded into a real place that people can come to,” Stoecker said. “We have to have a special place, a destination.”

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

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