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Meeting tonight part of a process that could affect every resident of Durango

The city of Durango will hold a public workshop from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today at the Durango Community Recreation Center to get feedback about proposed new zoning districts. It is part of a process that deserves attention. There are too many inherent opportunities for mischief to ignore.

The city is rethinking its Land Use and Development Code. As part of that, city planners are proposing new zoning districts that would replace existing ones.

The city’s website says doing so has four objectives:

“Better protection for existing neighborhoods;

“Better management of the distribution and character of commercial and industrial uses;

“More specific guidance for the transition of the city’s older commercial areas as they redevelop;

“Allowing for easier approval of quality mixed-use projects in appropriate locations.”

Sounds good. But there is a lot of room for explanation and interpretation between those four goals and actual zoning rules.

Many residents, for example, might be pleased that protecting existing neighborhoods was the first goal listed. That is typically the chief land-use planning objective of most homeowners.

It is easy to imagine, however, circumstances where that goal would come into direct conflict with the fourth objective. Mixed-use development does change the nature of a neighborhood; in many ways, that is its point. Exactly what city planners have in mind with that, will make all the difference in the world.

The city also went to considerable effort and expense a few years ago to identify and describe Durango’s existing neighborhoods. It then created the Established Neighborhood Design Review Board to help protect the character of those neighborhoods. Do the new zoning districts reflect those neighborhoods or replace that board?

The details and the execution of these changes will reflect the underlying thinking driving this process. Implementing necessarily vague objectives depends greatly on who, how and why they are put in place.

It is an effort all residents of Durango should watch carefully.