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Los Gatos--When General Plan Task Force members took up the issues surrounding growth at their Sept. 17 meeting, organizers told them not to try to be too specific. "It's like nailing Jell-o to a tree," said their agenda packets, which also contained facts and figures on the history of growth in and around the area. "Just when you think you have a handle on it, something squirts out somewhere else."

Members were charged with creating a list of issues, as outlined in the first task force report in January: Should the town consider adopting a low-growth policy? and: Should development be restricted to the capacity of existing roads and utilities?

"You're not here to let the town tell you what's important," said facilitator Laura Worthington-Forbes of RBF, the consultant hired to oversee the General Plan revision process. "Your input is critical--that's what makes you guys unique, as opposed to other cities." A handful of town officials were also on hand at the meeting to watch and listen, but not to participate.

Members split up into four group discussions, and each came up with a list of indicators of how growth-driven changes manifest themselves in daily life around town. They brought with them the opinions of other residents--after their last meeting, members were told to discuss the issue with at least five other residents.

The usual suspects came up: traffic, schools, population, infrastructure, and the fuzzy quality-of-life category called "look and feel." As each group reported their results, facilitators from RBF listed the results on an easel, then taped the four lists to the wall.

Then, to prioritize the issues, each of the 30 members was given six blue stickers and one little cowboy boot sticker--blue for important issues and boots for issues that shouldn't be considered as indicators--and were turned loose to vote on the issues on the wall.

Before the writing on that wall makes its way to a final decision, another meeting will take place on Oct. 1, where the group will focus the issues further by creating a summary. RBF facilitators will use the summary to start drawing up language for the suggested General Plan revision, which will come back to the group before a final version is passed on to the General Plan Committee, and eventually to the Town Council. By then, the gelatinous consistency of the issue may be somewhat solidified.
Jeff Kearns

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