Design Standards: Give the proposals a chance 2013.07.31


Morenci's planning commission is considering the creation of an ordinance to govern the way downtown buildings appear for renovation and new construction. It's a controversial topic and some disagreement has already been expressed among the planners.

We've heard that some business owners are leery of an aesthetics ordinance, also, but before it's rejected, we hope residents take the time to look closely at what's being proposed. That can't be done yet, because the planning commission isn't at all ready to make a recommendation to city council. They have an initial proposal to get the discussion going, but their work is far from complete.

If residents approach such an ordinance from the perspective that "no one can tell me what to do with my property," then there will certainly be no value seen in any regulation regarding design standards. If a property owner can move beyond that thinking and look at what might be proposed, then some merit emerges.

At the last meeting of the commission, it was noted by the mayor that the city's brick storefronts are preferable to steel siding or to a plywood covering. There is a downtown building in which the brick was covered over by wood. Whether or not you like the appearance, you have to admit that it dramatically changed the character of the building.

A change of that magnitude doesn't occur often, but one after another over a period of years will cover over the city's heritage, creating a mishmash of design that no longer shows the roots of the town.

Planners may choose to address only building materials such as a plywood or steel coating, and they might also say something about color. A bright blue building in the business district, for example, is not what the city needs for an attractive downtown.

Before it's rejected out of hand, give planners the opportunity to discuss the issue and create a proposal. They have no intention of hiding their work. Attend a meeting—the third Thursday of the month—or follow the news here in the Observer, then give the commission your thoughts. The work they do on this issue should have some value for all residents of the community.