Wednesday, May 11, 2011

City welcomes new planning manager

Joyce Allgaier has high hopes for Ketchum department

Express Staff Writer

Joyce Allgaier

Joyce Allgaier, Ketchum's new planning manager, always had a connection to the land. But the intersection of land and people fascinated her, propelling her into a career that manages that interface.

"Land-use planning is the perfect amalgam of the environment and people and society," she said. "In natural resources, the element of people is really intriguing to me. It's how we create our society within a natural environment—the interface of people and our land. That's why I went into land-use planning."

As planning manager, she oversees day-to-day operations of current review processes and long-range planning, which fall under the city's community and economic development department.

A native of Connecticut, Allgaier graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in environmental studies/natural resources planning.

Summer jobs as a back-country ranger in the Tetons showed her not only the grandeur of the region, but the possibilities of environmental stewardship and public interaction. "It was a great summer job," she said.

Stewardship and sustainability guide her approach to land-use planning.

"Planners should be focused on sustainable communities," she said. "They should look at the economic, social and environmental foundation of their communities. Those three things need to be there. Those are the pillars."

She started her planning career in Oregon, and worked as a town planner in Williston, Vt., and Shelburne, Vt.; as a community development director in Gunnison, Colo.; as a planning director for Snowmass Village, Colo.; and a deputy director of community development in Aspen. Prior to accepting the Ketchum position, she was a sustainability coordinator/senior planner in Clarion Associates' Aspen office.

She comes to Ketchum not just at a pivotal time in the economy, but a pivotal time for the city.

"One of the big and exciting things is rewriting the comprehensive plan," she said. "It's a perfect opportunity to reassess where Ketchum stands and what's the future vision. These tough economic times have helped to shed light on the delicate balance of our economy and our social situation and our environment. It's an exciting time to do a comprehensive plan."

Ketchum's 2001 Comprehensive Plan, a guiding document that addresses goals and policies for growth and development, is being completely updated, starting this summer. Work already has begun on the economic development chapter.

"With the economy being what it is, it allows you to look a little deeper," she said. "Maybe out of that come more creative solutions that might otherwise not have been contemplated when things are really good. The economy discloses what our assets are and what our challenges are. It's more exposed right now. It's a good time to do a comprehensive plan. I'm ramped up for that."

Public input greatly enhances a city's plans, she believes.

"My biggest hope is to get a lot of people involved," she said. "We're at a pivotal time. We need to keep (this) a competitive resort community and a livable city for a multi-generational population."

Her approach will be a "very aggressive community dialogue that's ongoing."

She wants to include in that conversation citizens, municipalities, other regional entities and nonprofits, "I want to talk about what each of us is trying to do and how we can do it together," she said. "I look forward to being a catalyst in those kinds of dialogues."

Allgaier also said she'll focus attention on relationships with the Ketchum-Sun Valley Marketing Alliance and Sun Valley Company.

"We need to pool our resources and align how we market and brand ourselves," she said.

Although she left Aspen just a few weeks ago, she's already gotten a feel for Ketchum—and likes what she sees.

The valley's outdoor opportunities, and people's embrace of them, impressed her. "I think this community is way more 'get out and do it' than Aspen," she said. "Maybe it's a testament to the good trail system we have here."

A Nordic ski racer, biker and avid tennis player, she'll make good use of her non-working hours.

Her son, Gunnar, will join her in Ketchum upon his return from a study-abroad program in Sweden. Her daughter, Hannah, will visit while on break from the University of Vermont. She said her kids don't mind her leaving Aspen.

"People are so friendly here," she said. "People take a little more time to engage with each other. I would expect the public discourse to be just as dynamic, just as thoughtful. But it's kinder and gentler here."

"This community has a lot of soul," she added.

Rebecca Meany:

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