Marijuana in the Mountains

Street signage advertising marijuana products, for both medical and recreational use, have taken their place next to signs for more traditional retail establishments in Aspen.   image: Patrick Rawley, Stan Clauson Associates, Inc.

Street signage advertising marijuana products, for both medical and recreational use, in Aspen
image: Patrick Rawley, Stan Clauson Associates, Inc.

Pitkin County & Colorado’s Early Experience with Legalized Weed

With the recent legalization of marijuana in the State of Colorado for recreational use, the nascent medical marijuana industry that had provided marijuana to those with doctors’ prescriptions expanded to recreational marijuana shops and grow operations. As with the rest of the state, the Aspen area has seen retail shops opening and grow operations proposed. Some of these land use proposals have been approved, and some not. This is an area of land use that has provoked considerable controversy, as this “green” boom does not come without its issues. Questions of safety, impacts on health, issues with driving while under the influence, and social acceptance of a substance that has so long stood in the shadows of society have entered the daily discussion. And now, land use has come into play.

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Retrofitting for Resilience

Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program (LRAP) Meeting<break>image: Coastal Sustainability Studio

A Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program (LRAP) meeting
image: LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio

Over the last two years, my colleagues and I at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Coastal Sustainability Studio have been developing a program that provides resources to planning staff in Louisiana communities to integrate resilience into planning efforts, whether they are working on zoning codes, comprehensive plans, or water management plans. The results of the program to-date have been based on the development of an online, decision-support tool and a webinar and workshop series that included presentations from national experts and partnerships with regional practitioners to address local challenges in Louisiana. While cultural, environmental, and economic context is critical in proposing sustainable mitigating actions in response to risk, there are clear lessons that are transferable to communities around the US. The following is one of many strategies for resilience we have identified.

Communities spend large amounts of money on infrastructure improvements, including road maintenance, building renovations, and drainage and sewer repairs. Precisely because these retrofitting efforts represent costly community investments, they should be conducted in ways that achieve multiple goals: increase livability and sustainability, reduce hazards and risks, and prepare for post-disaster recovery.

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Christo’s Over the River

Christo, Over the River project For the Arkansas River, Colorado, Drawing 2007

Christo, Over the River project For the Arkansas River, State of Colorado, Drawing 2007

The Confluence of Art and Land Use Politics, or the Journey is Half the Fun

As a parent, hearing the phrase “are we there yet” can cause your skin to crawl.  It isn’t that we don’t understand the frustration of a long wait for an anticipated vacation, but things that are worthwhile take time to happen – right?  As land use professionals, we find ourselves answering this question, in so many words, for our clients as we wind our way down a circuitous path towards approval of a project.  Like  the six year old in the back seat of the family wagon, our clients just wish to get on with the fun of building the project and would rather forget the often teeth grinding journey that leads to final approval.  And yet, as land use professionals who have freely chosen this profession, on some level, we must think the journey is fun.

Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, the dynamic duo behind such visually stunning and culturally evocative temporary outdoor art projects such as the wrapping of the Reichstag and the Gates in New York’s Central Park, seem to understand that the twists and turns of the permitting process is something that can and should become an integral part of any project and not just a means to an end.  Sadly, Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009 but her husband and their team of consultants continue to pursue one of the couple’s latest examples of this appreciation of process in their proposed project for the Arkansas River in Fremont County, Colorado.

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Paths Between Neighbors: New Trails in Conservation

The Okanogan Valley image: Jones & Jones

The Okanogan Valley
image: Jones & Jones

Paths Between Neighbors (PBN) is an innovative strategy to get private property owners who have not been actively involved in land conservation excited about and collaborating in land stewardship.  Piloted by the Okanagan Valley Land Trust (OVLT), PBN is being used to further OVLT’s work in preserving the native landscapes, working farms, and ranches across the rugged hills of the Okanogan Highlands in eastern Washington.

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Bicycling in Spain: Is there a relation to Land Use?

Bikes share a transitway in Seville
image: Stan Clauson

This article could easily be written by a member of the International or Transportation PPNs, but the bicycle is becoming increasingly important in Land Use, so it is offered here to spark a discussion about the importance of alternate transportation in community design.

Living in Aspen, Colorado, cycling has become a part of our lifestyle.  Whether it is mountain or road biking, trails and facilities exist to encourage even the most timid into this healthy recreation.  In town, year-round cyclists, some with studded snow tires, regularly use cycling to get to work and run errands.  So, it seemed natural in planning a trip to Spain (in a country where the famed Vuelta de España race ranks among the top three cycling events worldwide), to see what is happening with respect to cycling.  Our trip therefore included a week of cycling through Andalucia as well as visits to Madrid and Seville, two cities that have gone far to develop car-free pedestrian zones.  But how well do they accommodate cycling as an alternative mode of transportation and means of recreation?  It turns out that these cities could not be more different in this respect, something that no doubt reflects the divergence among U.S. cities as well.  In the countryside, some significant efforts are made for cycling safety on rural roads, and rails-to-trails is part of the program.

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Wayfinding: The Value of Knowing How to Get There

Identifying gateway locations that relate to the surrounding scale, background, foreground and day and night visibility is critical to a complete wayfinding system.
image: MERJE Design

Planners, business associations, governments, visitors, and residents are becoming more aware of the importance of attractive and informative wayfinding signage to help them steer through the complexities and appreciate the changing environment of a city setting. Incorporating a signage and wayfinding system as part of the planning process is critical to the effectiveness of an overall revitalization strategy.

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