MANAGER: ORGANIZED EFFORTS IN UNINCORPORATED AREAS WORK

MANAGER: ORGANIZED EFFORTS IN UNINCORPORATED AREAS WORK

Often, when we talk about economic development, the assumption is that only incorporated areas can organize sufficiently to compete for development dollars. Further, some in the county have a strong perception that the county bureaucracy hinders rather than facilitates economic growth.
In fact, however, the county is positioning itself to be a cooperative partner with entities in the unincorporated areas to facilitate growth within the parameters of reasonable subdivision and zoning requirements. Some requirements may seem overly restrictive, but in truth they are merely tools to facilitate consistent, orderly growth. During the last 10 years, Doña Ana County has enacted some of the most forward-thinking zoning laws in the state and region. These laws are intended to encourage economic growth by making developing communities clean, safe and appealing.
This is not to say that once laws are enacted, they are considered perfect. In fact, District 3 Commissioner Paul Curry is currently spearheading a community-based effort to evaluate the county’s zoning, subdivision and permit processes, and we expect that the advisory board he has created will make many recommendations aimed at improving our processes. We want to be customer-friendly to developers and contractors within the parameters of well-thought-out and enforceable codes and regulations that balance community interests with identifiable economic development opportunities. If the county has been historically hard to deal with, it can be traced in large measure to the phenomenal problems caused by unscrupulous ‘developers’ who threw up illegal (and illegally accessed) subdivisions and colonias that are still nightmares from the standpoints of community health, safety and welfare.
All that said, the county recognizes that unincorporated communities should be encouraged to grow and prosper. We are heavily partnered with private entities in Santa Teresa, where job creation last year averaged more than 10 new jobs each week. Santa Teresa is growing fast because of its strategic location on the U.S./Mexico border, but growth is occurring across the county. We want to facilitate it to the greatest possible degree. One way of doing this is by helping unincorporated areas partner with the county for progress.
The most important factor in any community’s vision for its future is a strong-willed desire for change, which leads to the development of workable strategies. The biggest component of such a strategy should be local, area and regional networking with government officials, private industry, granting authorities and financial institutions. To each of these entities, the economic potential of a given geographic area must be made evident.
Once a strategic plan is in place, the next step toward meaningful economic development is the creation and nurturing of partnerships that facilitate real progress. Entities such as water and sanitation districts represent powerful allies in this regard, for they have knowledge of local growth patterns upon which realistic future projections can be based. If the resulting strategic plan is sufficiently compelling, then attracting and retaining partners for its implementation should result. Further, a planning document that sets forth a believable and logical plan helps politicians focus on the big picture rather than on their individual territories, districts or interests.
I’m hopeful that developers and community leaders recognize the fact – and it is a fact – that the county is more than willing to help any community build, prosper and positively impact the lives of its proud residents. In pursuit of the right partnerships to fuel such progress, my office is always open to concerns, criticisms and ideas for a better community.