Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Column 31: Incline Village Needs a Plan

Incline Village needs a plan. Over the past decades the village has grown without any real organization or planning. From time to time you will hear people talk as if there were a plan – for example, there is a myth that “chain businesses are not allowed here.” Despite the presence of 7-Eleven, and Subway, not to mention Raley’s, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, I still heard that myth cited in wonder when Starbuck’s and then Quizno’s opened here, but in fact there is no such restriction, nor is there any body of regulations short of the County that could make such a restriction.
We saw a shortcoming of not being self-regulating when the County, without much (if any) consultation with the Village, ousted the Children’s Cabinet thrift store from its location on Northwood due to a violation of (County) zoning restrictions. It is very likely that special interests and an arrogant government agency will give us a post office in what may be the worst possible location in the Village, and we will be powerless to stop it.
So I was gratified to see Bill Horn and Gene Brockman recommend that the IVGID Board of Trustees take the lead on developing a community plan. I was especially pleased that Gene recommended that the group be called “Incline Vision.” In my work with companies and organizations I have become a firm believer in the primacy of vision in any undertaking. A plan, to be meaningful and intelligent, must derive from an alignment of all concerned on what they want to see happen and how they want the organization, or in this case the community, to develop over the coming years.
Alignment does not mean that everyone agrees on every particular of a plan, but that there is a shared commitment as regards the future Alignment means reconciling differences at a level that is sufficient to coordinate actions across community boundaries. The source of effective coordination is a common future, and coming to a common future takes effective leadership and a lot of communication. Where alignment is strong, creativity and valuable planning are easy and natural. In the absence of alignment, planning devolves to arguing about how to get somewhere when we have not established where we are going or why we are going there.
While I know the Board’s effort is well-intended, I’m not convinced that IVGID can provide leadership that will create a vision that is broadly based and inclusive of the entire community, and without a vision that meets those criteria, any plan will be likely to be insufficient to meet the community’s needs. A recent book, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, provides compelling evidence that the broader and more diverse a group is, the more creative and intelligent solutions it comes up with, and the more “expert” and unrepresentative a group, the less well it will do. I believe that this principle must govern any group that takes on the vision stages of the planning process.
Chairman Brockman made the point that for a committee to include all the various points of view in the village would make it too big to be workable, and I agree with him. The solution to this is to recognize that the committee will be a coordinating body, and to task it first with creating that alignment from which a valuable vision will come. TRPA, in its Pathways 2007 project, is trying to do this with a 40+ member committee and numerous subcommittees. It remains to be seen how that will work, but I think a smaller committee that holds forums with all the different interest groups in the Village and then brings together a Village-wide forum to air its findings and to host a conversation to create a vision from which planning will proceed is a more workable model for us.
In any case, we should be glad that the process has been launched, and appreciative of this newspaper for starting the conversation and of Bill Horn, Gene Brockman, and the Board for undertaking the challenge. It is an effort that deserves and needs all our support.

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