Long Range Planning

"Do you want new development to shape the character of your community, or do you want the character of your community to shape new development?"
 ~Ed McMahon, Orton Family Foundation Trustee

What is Long Range Planning?

Cities and counties provide two levels of planning service. They review land-use applications and they set the rules by which applications are to be judged (this is where the Land Use Code comes into play). They also conduct long-range planning efforts, as they try to look into the crystal ball and plan appropriately for the future. This second function is often overlooked by the general public, simply because it is more difficult to visualize. However, this is not a function to be overlooked, as the framework of our communities is set by long-range planning.

There are numerous reasons why long-range planning usually doesn’t evoke the same level of awareness as entitlement planning. For one, long range planning often sets forth scenarios that never come to fruition. And then there’s the problem of visualizing the future. How many people can truly believe that a grand vision of the future will actually happen? But the biggest reason that long-range planning is often undervalued is that it looks twenty or more years in the future. In a world where homeowners move every seven years and renters even more frequently, many of us have a hard time caring about our communities 26 years in the future.

However, none of those are valid reasons to overlook long-range planning. Even if neither we nor our descendants will be living in our communities in 26 years, we owe it to the folks who will be living there to take long-range planning seriously - to grasp the land-use issues that will define the 21st century and to be a part of creating a good direction.

The City of Cortez is beginning to take a serious look at long-range planning. In December 2012, the City was selected as one of five cities in the nation to be awarded a 2-year, $100,000 Heart & Soul Community Planning grant from the Orton Family Foundation. The grant was aimed at helping small towns with a population of 50,000 or less to conduct long-range planning efforts, using the Heart & Soul techniques currently under development by the Foundation.

Logo Color.jpg

What is the Heart & Soul method of planning?

"The Heart & Soul method is a barn-raising approach to community planning and development designed to increase participation in local decision-making and empower residents to shape the future of their communities in a way that upholds the unique character of each place.

Heart & Soul reconnects people with what they love most about their town, and translates those personal connections into a blueprint that serves as the foundation for future community decisions.

'Just as one can’t build a durable house on a foundation of shifting sands,” says Lyman Orton (Foundation co-founder), “a town can’t expect to build an enduring and prosperous future unless its residents have laid down their own emotional and cultural foundation.'

That is what we mean by “heart and soul”—the things that make a place feel like home. When these attributes are acknowledged and valued collectively, people feel more connected to their communities, and also more inspired to get involved so those connections will be protected for the long haul. Communities that are loved thrive." (Orton)

Follow this link to learn more about the Heart and Soul method.

Heart & Soul Planning in Cortez

Within the first month of receiving the grant, a Community Advisory Team (consisting of community volunteers) was formed to steer the direction of the grant. A Project Coordinator was soon hired with grant funds, and City staff members and volunteers began training with Staff at the Foundation. Project goals specific to Cortez were developed, and outreach efforts were designed to reach as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible.

What are the Heart & Soul Project Goals?

  1. Partner with diverse community members to bring new voices into new conversations
  2. Create a Community Action Plan
  3. Engage Youth
  4. Strengthen the capacity of local organizations to better serve community needs
  5. Create new Land Use Code that reflects the community values


The grant was originally scheduled to last for a two-year time period (Jan 2013 - Dec 2014) but it is anticipated that the Heart & Soul efforts will continue beyond this time frame. The Community Advisory Team (CAT) has spent months collecting input, ie. stories, values, etc. from community members to aid in the development of long-range plans for our community. While this work will culminate in the creation of an updated Comprehensive Plan and a new Land Use Code based on the values of the community members, the City Council, Staff members, and the CAT are already devising plans to keep the Heart & Soul process alive in the community.

As this work is ongoing, please check out the Cortez Heart & Soul website for the most up-to-date information about the project.

Watch the video that the City submitted with the original Heart & Soul grant application.