Polarization doesn't work

A polarizing atmosphere is created when issues are over-simplified. This is happening with the Hub and also with the Mogollon Public Works Yard.

The Hub case begins with an ongoing need for student housing. A developer who specializes in large off-campus private dormitories wants to build a project that would help fill the need and be very profitable. The problem is that the location they choose is in a beloved historic neighborhood which their project overwhelms. Those opposed to building the Hub in this location are accused of being anti-development and anti-student.

The Public Works Yard case starts with public land that is being de-commissioned from its current public use. The city wants to sell the land for private development to make money. The community wants to keep it for public use and as part of the city park it is connected to, as designated by bond election (1922) and ordinance (1957). Those opposed to selling this public land for private development are accused of being anti-development and elitist.

The deeper issue in both of these cases is not whether development should happen in Flagstaff, but what is appropriate development. Flagstaff is going to grow. The historic, original parts of the city will fill in with denser projects to accommodate more people and more economic activity.

As a community Flagstaff has created and approved policies, goals, plans and regulations designed to usher in growth while preserving our resources—natural, historical, cultural. Those who insist these policies and regulations be interpreted as they were intended—and improved when they don't—are planning for their grandchildren.

The pressure of immediate needs like student and workforce housing would seem to be relieved in the short term by giving away or selling our precious cultural gems, like a one-of-a-kind historic neighborhood, or a key piece of public land within another historic neighborhood. But these are giveaways we will come to regret after they only partially, and probably poorly, fill immediate housing needs.

Polarizing forces act as if those are the only opportunities for housing: And they may be the only opportunities for giant housing projects, but certainly not for creative, contextual, culture-enhancing infill projects which add density to neighborhoods in manageable ways.

These are complex issues with layers of information. Oversimplifying and polarizing them doesn’t work. Open minds without hidden agendas willing to listen does work.