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Planners critique the City Council's vision and values

At least three Planning Commission members think the City Council's vision and values statements are too utopian and need more "grit."

The commission's three highest-ranking members — Chairwoman Pam Marsh, Vice Chairman Michael Dawkins and second Vice Chairwoman Melanie Mindlin — frowned on the City Council's new vision and values statements when they reviewed the documents at their July 28 meeting.

"There's nothing here that tells me that Ashland addresses the needs and takes care of vulnerable residents," Marsh said at the meeting.

"It sort of has the flavor, for me, of the Ashland that takes care of retired people. It sort of has no grit in there."

Council member Eric Navickas, who presented the documents to the commission, said he looked forward to revising the statements.

"I personally agree that we do need to be a little more active in creating the town we want to see in the future," he said.

The council will use the input from city planners to shape revisions to the values and vision statements in November, according to a council letter addressed to the commission.

Mayor John Stromberg said the council decided to release the statements now, in draft form, in order to get comments on them and polish them later. He said the commission's response to the documents was useful.

"This is just a first draft so these answers are interesting and they're appropriate," he said. "I take that as feedback rather than criticism and I think they're helpful."

The vision and values statements are designed to guide the council in making decisions.

The values document lists good government, the natural environment, responsible land use, free expression, diversity, economy, independence, personal well-being and a sense of community as most important to the council.

The vision statement describes what the council thinks are Ashland's best attributes — its parks, community atmosphere and diversity are listed — in the hopes of preserving these aspects of the city.

"Ashland is eclectic and funky, and people's differences are treasured, not just tolerated," one section of the statement reads.

Marsh and commission member Mike Morris said the values statement ought to mention the importance of families and children in Ashland.

"We need to explicitly target those members of the community," Marsh said.

Mindlin and Dawkins said they felt that even though the council documents were created with a "sustainability" theme, they didn't really represent a sustainable Ashland.

"I am just taking this moment to say I'd like us to get a little more serious about what the future's going to look like and, what do we need to do to prepare for it?" Mindlin said. "And not just play this game."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.