Commissioners vote to make comp plan ‘advisory’ | PostIndependent.com
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Commissioners vote to make comp plan ‘advisory’

John ColsonPost Independent staffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Garfield County commissioners on Monday accomplished something they have been working on for months. In a 3-0 vote, the commissioners removed any doubt that the Comprehensive Plan 2030 is an advisory document and affirmed that it is in no way a “mandatory” influence in the county’s development review process.They also made it clear that if a developer failed to convince the county’s planning staff and planning and zoning commission (P&Z) that their development has merit, they can simply seek approval from the commissioners.”It doesn’t mean that there’s a guarantee that they’d get approved,” stressed Commissioner Mike Samson.The move has generated some controversy, ever since the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) made it clear in January that they wanted to change the way the comp plan is used in the review process.Historically, if a development proposal obviously did not comply with the guidelines of the comp plan, it would be sent back to the developer for revision.This “compliance” requirement was written into the county’s land use codes until Monday, when the commissioners changed the land use code to eliminate that requirement.The idea was opposed by the county’s own planning and zoning commission, an advisory group appointed to initially analyze development proposals and then either recommend that the BOCC approve the project or deny it.”The comprehensive plan is not some form of mandatory document,” said Phil Vaughan, chair of the P&Z, during a public hearing on the matter Monday.”At no time have I ever seen anyone’s hands be tied” by the comp plan in 22 years of serving on the P&Z, Vaughan said.”When we went through there, it was definitely mandatory,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, referring to his failed effort to win approval for high-density development at the base of the Sunlight Mountain Resort.Jankovsky, before being elected, was general manager as well as part owner of the ski resort. He retains his ownership interest.The Sunlight development application, for 830 units at the base of the ski mountain, was recommended for denial by the P&Z in November 2008. The negative recommendation was primarily based on concerns that Four Mile Road, the only route to the ski area, could not handle the added traffic.The Florida developer that was going to buy the ski resort pulled out of the deal in early 2009 after the recommendation.Jankovsky withdrew the development application in April 2009, citing the worsening economy.In public statements since being elected, Jankovsky has charged repeatedly that the county’s P&Z would use a proposed development’s noncompliance with some aspect of the comprehensive plan as a reason for blocking the plan from full review.”If you don’t get the comp plan amended, you don’t even get in front of the P&Z, let alone the Board of County Commissioners,” he said at the BOCC hearing on Monday.Vaughan suggested at one point that the comp plan be left as it was, as a way of offering “predictability” to developers and the public alike.But Samson countered that he was hoping for predictability for developers who “want to come into Garfield County and invest millions of dollars.”The real question, Samson said, is, “Who do you trust?”He suggested the voters trust the BOCC “to make the best decisions that we think are the best for Garfield County.”If the voters disapprove of the commissioners’ actions, the voters can elect someone else, he said.The county’s chief planner, Fred Jarman, asked for clarification about the goals of the BOCC in making this change.”What are the goals of the commission? They change,” replied Commissioner John Martin.Jarman pressed for more clarification as to how the BOCC’s goals might fit in with the land use codes, and how the planning staff might explain things to applicants.”What you’re looking for is constancy with the rules and regulations. That’s good for your world, but not good for ours,” Martin responded.He explained that the goal of the BOCC is to stick to the land use codes themselves, while still honoring the work of citizens and others who spent more than a year drawing up the comp plan as the county’s guiding land use document.”I’m not undermining this at all,” Martin said of the comp plan’s standing in the county’s development review process.The BOCC voted 3-0 to adopt the change in the wording of the land use code.jcolson@postindependent.com


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