Border planning work goes ahead

Editor’s Note: Frontera NorteSur’s ongoing coverage of the southern New Mexico border region is made possible in part by a grant from the McCune Charitable Foundation.

Kent Paterson

Frontera NorteSur

Work on the first-ever regional plan for Doña Ana County is moving into the next phase. After a series of public meetings this fall, planning staff for the Vision 2040 Plan are sifting through various suggestions for revisions to the original document in order to come up with a new draft that could be considered by elected officials in early 2012.

Neighboring El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Doña Ana County has experienced historic spurts of growth during the past few decades and is expected to witness significant new developments including a new border inter-modal transportation facility, an envisioned border crossing at Sunland Park and the Spaceport of New Mexico.

Like other US-Mexico border counties, Doña Ana County faces serious challenges from high unemployment, poverty and climate change.

Paul Michaud, senior planner for the City of Las Cruces, said Vision 2040 staff expect the Las Cruces City Council, Doña Ana County commissioners and the Extraterritorial Authority will hold separate public hearings on an updated plan.

“We still encourage the municipalities of Anthony, Hatch, Mesilla and Sunland Park to adopt this plan,” Michaud said in an e-mail. “The elected officials will have the opportunity at the public hearings to adopt, make suggested changes to the plan, not approve, or postpone action.”

Vision 2040 staff has received 204 suggestions for changes to the original document. Commentators from the City of Las Cruces, Doña Ana County, 2040 Advisory Committee and the public at large contributed their recommendations. The issues evoking interest included economic development, proposed expansion of the dairy industry, transportation, storm water management, and poor Rio Grande water quality in an era of water scarcity, among others.

In light of the “upward trend” in the growth of the over-65 population, Vision 2040 staff suggested the need for stressing additional health care services.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the issue of colonias-underdeveloped communities that lack basic infrastructure-re-emerged during the public comment period as a major public policy matter meriting greater attention.

Michaud credited the Doña Ana County Health and Human Services Department for generating an “excellent turn out” at an October 25 meeting focusing on colonias in Vado-Del Cerro, a low-income community located in the rural but growing part of the county between Las Cruces and El Paso.

As a predicted cold winter rapidly approaches, an issue raised at the meeting has pressing significance. Some in attendance warned that many families in the colonias do not have heat or gas.

Readers interested in the Vision 2040 Plan can access relevant documents and information on upcoming meetings at:

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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