No community is immune from the impacts of significant disruptions, and it is impossible to anticipate and prepare for all possible natural or economic hazard events. Larimer County’s new Comprehensive Plan helps build individual and community self-sufficiency in the event of a disaster, as well as strengthening the capacity of the county to continue supplying critical goods and services during emergency situations and throughout recovery.
Larimer County is diverse—demographically, economically and geographically. More than half of the County’s 2,634 square miles is sparsely populated mountainous terrain, while the Front Range area encompasses one of the fastest growing urban areas in Colorado. Larimer County recognized the areas’ different challenges, and elected to develop the new comprehensive plan into two phases, each of which address the needs of the mountain and Front Range communities separately.
The Comprehensive Plan holistically structured the format, process, and content around six resiliency frameworks: community, economy, health & social, housing, infrastructure, and watersheds & natural resources. Public involvement was key to the Plan’s success, and the plan was refined through in-person conversations at 13 community events, 830 online survey responses, 46 one-on-one interviews, and over 25 regular workshops with the three project committees and county leaders.
An unexpected and favorable result of the two-phase approach was early implementation and actions even ahead of adoption of the full Comprehensive Plan. The Framework Map geographically illustrates the policies reflected in the plan, including subarea planning and targeted rural development. Other notable achievements since plan adoption include the current update of the County Land Use Code to reflect the community’s vision and moving forward on establishing a process and prioritization criteria for subarea planning for unincorporated communities.
The Comprehensive Plan called for expansion of broadband service into digitally isolated rural areas, as well as the expansion of the Larimer Connects program—a county program created with the understanding that communities that do not have good social connectivity and access to resources are not able to fulfill their potential in becoming resilient. These programs are already proving to be essential to managing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural residents.