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Public participation sought in Orchard Mesa planning

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Three open houses are scheduled to answer questions and hear comments as work continues on a long-term plan for the Orchard Mesa area of the Grand Valley.

The events will offer business owners and managers as well as residents an opportunity to participate in the process of drafting a plan that will guide development in the area for the next 25 years.

“We’re truly diving into the full public input phase,” said David Thornton, planning and development supervisor for the City of Grand Junction.

City and Mesa County planners are working together on a new long-term plan for Orchard Mesa, an area south of downtown Grand Junction bounded in part by the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, 34 1/2 Road and Mesa County landfill.

While the majority of Orchard Mesa remains in unincorporated Mesa County, more than half is located within the boundaries of a sewer service area and potentially could be annexed into the city, Thornton said.

According to the latest U.S. Census information, nearly 16,000 people live in the Orchard Mesa area. That’s a population greater than Fruita, Thornton said.

The Orchard Mesa area is expected grow over the next 25 years along with the rest of the Grand Valley, he added.

Thornton said he expects the Orchard Mesa plan to be developed over the remainder of the year and added to the comprehensive plan for the city and county.

The more immediate, goal, he said is to identify the various issues in the area, whether they’re related to economic development, land use and zoning, public safety or transportation.

Comments received so far about economic development in the Orchard Mesa Area raise concerns about gaps in available products and services as well as the lack of what could be described as destination businesses that bring in shoppers from other areas, Thornton said.

Moreover, comments suggest the commercial corridor along U.S. Highway 50 through the area offers an unattractive entrance to the community, he said.

At the same time, though, the Mesa County Fairgrounds on Orchard Mesa constitutes a regional economic driver. And planned improvements to the fairgrounds could attract hotels, restaurants and other businesses to the area, he said.

Other comments have focused on the effects of U.S. Highway 50 — which essentially splits Orchard Mesa in two — on safety and schools, Thornton said.

In participating in planning for Orchard Mesa, Thornton hopes business owners and managers and residents come up with a “wish list” of the changes they’d like to see.

“It’s all good stuff because we want it all out on the table,” he said.

The long-term plan for the Orchard Mesa area then can help in addressing issues and potentially making some wishes come true, he said.

In the past, such ideas as a pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River and the completion of 29 Road from U.S. Highway 50 north to the Interstate Highway 70 Business Loop have been realized, he added.

For your information:

 Open houses on planing for the Orchard Mesa area are set for 4 to 6:30 p.m. June 10 at the Mesa County Fairgrounds Community Building at 2785 U.S. Highway 50, 4 to 6:30 p.m. June 13 at the Orchard Mesa Baptist Church fellowship hall at 2748 B 1/2 Road and 4 to 6:30 p.m. June 18 at the Convenant Presbyterian Church, 237 32 Road. Comments or questions also may be directed to David Thornton at 244-1450 or Keith Fife at 244-1650. Information is available on the websites at www.gjcity.org and www.mesacounty.us/planning.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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