County Commissioners and Collaborative Land Use Planning – a Learning Lab Exercise

County commissioners participating in Learning Lab.  Photo: Kate Lighthall.

The Western Interstate Region (WIR) of the National Association of Counties (NACo) held their annual meeting and workshops in Sunriver, OR last week.  This provided a great opportunity for Cohesive Strategy’s Western Region to host a Learning Lab demonstration around the engagement and collaboration between a local developer, an environmental group, and federal and county agencies that resulted in consensus between the parties to allow the developer to move forward with their new Fire Adapted Community subdivision.  An all-hands, all-lands approach.  

Each of the characters described their interactions with this group and the reasons why they came to the outcomes they reached.  Throughout the descriptions, the facilitator asked the audience what they learned about fire adapted communities and the value of collaboration in the building permit process. Commissioners responded with a variety of thoughts ranging from “I had no idea the county could act in this way to bring about agreements that satisfied opposing sides” to “Now I see the connection between fire adapted communities, resilient landscapes and an integrated response.” 

The key, each presenter agreed, was their willingness to “think outside the box” of the regular planning process. Through their collective education around fire planning, Fire Adapted Communities, ecosystem and active forest management, they all came to agreement about how to design the development for the benefit of all stakeholders. The result of this collaborative planning effort is the model process that can now be undertaken in communities across the West.  

The Cohesive Strategy strongly promotes these collaborative efforts and “out of the box” thinking that lead to consensus between stakeholders about how to have positive impacts on resilient landscapes, fire adapted communities and a safe and effective wildfire response.