Residents want to weed out city plan

By Tony Parra

The trash and weeds have to go. That’s a priority for those interested in Portales.
About 35 people gathered in the First United Methodist Church on Tuesday night for the third in a four-part series of public meetings focused on the city’s future.
“My pet peeve is coming in on the highway — my first impression is the trash and weeds,” said Diane Parker, a city council member. “It’s great to get a restaurant and a hotel in and get more jobs. With all that, we still have to clean up our trash.”
Officials with Consensus Planning, an Albuquerque firm hired by the city to produce a comprehensive plan for Portales’ future, met with city officials and community members to show slides depicting landscape options for the city to consider.
Some of those gathered on Tuesday said they believe Portales needs a plan for the next five to 20 years. Others said residents need to look at the present before looking ahead.
“We need to take care of what we’ve got,” said Ronnie Birdsong, Eastern New Mexico University vice president of university relations/enrollment. “(ENMU) students who first came to Portales said to themselves, ‘What have we got ourselves into?’ They grew to love it, but first impressions matter. We lose students because of first impressions.”
Jackie Fishman, Consensus Planning planner, said the organization will take landscaping ideas into consideration as it continues to work on economic development plans presented in previous community meetings.
“The idea is to get your aspects for physical planning,” Fishman said. “Land use covers every aspect of planning your ideas.”
Linda Sumption, an ENMU instructor, said she saw the impact a beautiful landscape can have on a town when she lived in Minnesota. She said there was a bike trail connected throughout the city with beautiful landscaping. Sumption said it didn’t seem like a complicated or expensive project, but it made a difference.
Residents gathered at Tuesday’s meeting in Portales also brought up concerns about lack of participation from the community.
“We’ve publicized the meeting, we’ve posted posters, sent out fliers,” said Darla Wilhoit, Portales’ economic development director. “I don’t know what else to do.”
Other participants said one of the reasons for the lack of participation is because people are disheartened.
“Portales has gone through this before,” Parker said. “We envisioned where Portales would be in the future and we came up with ideas, but we let it sit on the shelf. Once we get started doing something, then people will join in.”
ENMU president Steven Gamble said one priority that must be addressed in the comprehensive plan is zoning laws — and enforcing them.
Fishman said Consensus Planning officials will visit Portales again in early July, but a date is not set. She said the vision statement will be displayed and it will be the last public meeting.
“People have to be active in our planning,” City Manager Debi Lee said. “It (Portales) is going to change or grow; it’s up to you to be a part of it.”