Arlan Colton

Arlan Colton is Pima County's planning director and a founding board member of Imagine Greater Tucson, a nonprofit that is developing a vision plan for the metro Tucson area. Colton says he got involved in Imagine Greater Tucson because he believed that "unless we took things under our wing, we were going to continue to grow under the path of least resistance, which is inefficient, ineffective and not good for the economy or the environment." Imagine Greater Tucson is surveying Tucsonans to get an idea of how they'd like to see the community grow. Take the survey yourself at www.imaginegreatertucson.org, or call 209-2448 for a paper copy. The deadline to complete a survey is Feb. 29.

What is Imagine Greater Tucson?

Imagine Greater Tucson is shaping how the future growth of the region is going to happen. We're providing options to the public for how they might like to see that happen. We are hoping to get a measure of the community's values and bring forward the vision that results.

Who is involved with this?

Imagine Greater Tucson is a very broad group of primarily volunteers from a variety of interests who share the common belief that we can either plan our future, or have our future plan us.

What do you hope to have at the end of this process?

The process is a continuum, so we're not necessarily going for an end state. But at the end of the first stage, we will have a vision and some guiding principles indicating what we want to be as a community as we grow up over the next century, and a path that helps us get there.

Tell me about the options people have to choose among.

The first thing we did was ask the community what their values were. We have reduced that to 66 values that cover nine different topics, ranging from economic development to the environmental character to transportation to well-being and safety. The second thing we did was, given those values, ask people what some of those values might look like, and they created 105 different maps of the region. We've distilled that down to three alternatives, with the fourth alternative being if we do nothing differently—a status-quo alternative.

That ties into the survey that you're doing now?

Yes. The survey provides a lot of information to people—as much or as little as they want—and they can determine whether they prefer one of the four alternatives, including the existing trend. The other three are derived from the public input. One focuses on existing suburbs and creating centers around them. The second identifies new, much-larger centers of urban populations. And the last one creates much more of an urban core for the city. So there are four very distinct choices on how we could conceivably grow.

People have until the end of February to take the survey?

That's correct. We need to have all the responses in by the end of February so we can begin to utilize the data and produce what's likely to be a hybrid scenario based on what we hear from the public.

We've seen these kinds of planning efforts end up in reports that gather dust on a shelf somewhere. How do you avoid that?

The easy answer is: Don't produce a final document. The real answer is to recognize that Imagine Greater Tucson is not seeking an end state. It's a process that's on a continuum. You don't publish a report and expect, like the Ten Commandments, that (this is) what is supposed to happen. It's a process of working over time to implement that, to explore in more depth things like transportation later on. For example, any one of the three alternative visions would result in re-examining how we address transportation in the region. The existing transportation plan is based on the existing trend. If you change the existing trend, you need to look at transportation differently. And that goes for virtually everything else, too.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Just that we appreciate all of the involvement from the public we've had to date, and we look forward to more. We want to hear from everybody: older folks, younger folks, working folks, everybody.