The City of Buellton’s initial public “Visioning Process” meeting on March 18 was well attended, though it’s worth nothing, I think, that about a third of those who participated were directly involved with city government: City council members, planning and other commission members, and city employees. Nonetheless, the kick-off meeting to a Visioning Process that will run to the end of this year seemed to be well received.

The purpose of the meeting was to launch the public’s direct involvement in the process of developing a long-range plan for the future development of the city.

As a prelude to the meeting, the city posted a questionnaire on its website and encouraged people to log on and answer six questions about the things they like or dislike about the city, and what they would like to see accomplished in the future. About 180 people completed the questionnaires, and their responses were summarized in a 38-page handout at the meeting, which can also be downloaded from the city’s website.

The responses to the questionnaire bring to mind the maxim: “If you try to please everyone, you please no one.” For example, consider the following conflicting statements: ”Limit growth” vs. “Lack of development,” “No more growth in housing, just referb the ones we have,” “WAY TOO MUCH TRAFFIC & too many houses. It has lost that rural appeal,”

“Too many houses” vs. “Low-income service people are important to our community. We need to house them better,” or “Lack of development.” Here’s another contrast: “Family-oriented, friendly people, close knit community,” “Easy to be accepted by people – open arms,” “Sense of community” vs. “People keep to themselves, not friendly.”

On the subject of the city’s appearance: “Incorporate some better architectural designs. Particularly traditional Italian and Italian Villa architecture as other California cities have done or the direction they are going. There’s enough faux Spanish-style architecture between the Albertson’s shopping area and the previously owned Fred Fredericks buildings,” “The Western theme in the Valley – doesn’t really fit where Buellton is going or its potential future,”

“beautify the commercial buildings along the Avenue (of Flags),” vs. “beautiful rolling hills, beautiful views…” Here are some examples of other contrasting statements – about Avenue of (The) Flags: “Nothing on the Ave. of Flags,” “The Avenue of the Flags looks really ratty. Especially the feed store area,”

“The ‘truck stop’ feel of the Avenue of the Flags,” “Avenue of the Flags is better than before, but still mostly an eyesore with too many unoccupied offices and building,” “The rundown hotels and liquor stores and feed stores on Avenue of the Flags should go…It looks like a slum over there” vs. “Avenue of the Flags is very nice,” or “the Avenue of the Flags has improved.” So which is it, “an eyesore” or “very nice?” I assume it can’t be both, or can it?

Some additional points of interest about the Visioning Process: “Different leadership, vs. leaders rotating, maybe for forward thinking individuals with more diversity represented, individuals in city leadership positions making themselves more visible in the community.”

Note: Most people have no idea of the countless number of hours city council members devote to what is essentially a volunteer position. They receive a stipend of about $400 a month, but the responsibility is almost a full-time job.

This is the third time Buellton has conducted a Visioning Process, including one that was done by Cal Poly. I am informed that the drawings and supporting information that were prepared by the university are still stored at the Buellton city hall.

A number of people at the meeting commented unfavorably about the $72,000 fee for the outside consultant who is managing this current Visioning Process for the city, in addition to the internal costs of the city’s staff time and materials. A total of $100,000 has been budgeted for the process.

Many comments were also made about Highway 246, the location of the post office and city hall, community events, types of desirable businesses and restaurants, traffic flow, open space, community policing and a host of other issues, some of which indicate the need for a better understanding of property rights, market forces and legal and regulatory limitations that are outside the city’s direct control.

No doubt about it, some people are bound to be disappointed with the Visioning Process because their perceptions and desires are diametrically opposed to those of others, proving once again that you can’t satisfy everyone, ever.

Visions change as our lives change. Nothing in life is cast in cement, and there are no guarantees. Today’s vision can turn into tomorrow’s nightmare, so be careful what you wish for. Stay tuned for more about Buellton’s Visioning Process.

© 2010 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved Read more of Harris Sherline’s commentaries on his blog at opinionfest.com