Consultants, locals pare away at Garfield County land use code
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The effort to rewrite Garfield County’s land use codes is far from over, although it has been under way for four months and has involved ideas and suggestions from more than a dozen representatives of the development community.
At this point, some 80 pages are slated to be trimmed from the Unified Land Use Code of 2008, which stood at 488 pages as adopted in 2008.
In addition, a number of text sections have been condensed into tables and graphs to make the codes easier to read and use, according to consultant Elizabeth Garvin of Clarion Associates, a Denver planning consulting firm.
Garvin and Matt Goebel, both of Clarion, met Monday evening with a working group of citizens, including 14 attorneys, land use planners and consultants, engineers, surveyors, ranchers and a representative from a gas drilling company.
The working group was created in March by the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to streamline and reorient the land use codes, in conjunction with the work done by Clarion.
The goal, the county commissioners agreed at the time, was to create a more business-friendly regulatory environment and spur economic development across the county.
According to Garvin, most of the 80 pages that she is recommending be excised from the overall document are to come from Articles 3, 4 and 5 in the code, which cover zoning, application and review procedures for developments, and divisions of land.
In total, the land use codes as adopted are contained in 16 articles, which range in size from a few pages each to around 100.
The articles of the code can be viewed on the county’s website, http://www.garfield-county.com, under “Building and Planning” in the “Departments” pull-down menu.
“We edited a lot of information out that was redundant … that was more than redundant,” Garvin told the working group on Tuesday.
The changes involved consolidation of what Garvin called repetitive instructions on how to work with the county review process, and clarification of some provisions, such as public notice requirements.
The revisions also propose changes to certain very specific guidelines, such as the rear- and side-setbacks in the resource lands zone, which Garvin said are to be reduced from 100 feet to 25 to enable more use of the property involved.
The commercial/business zone district has been removed, although Garvin said the provisions for uses in that district are now covered elsewhere.
“We didn’t eliminated any uses” in the rewrite, Goebel told the working group.
The group spent considerable time going over the “Use by Zone District” section of the zoning code. It differentiates uses by right, uses requiring a permit and prohibited uses on parcels of land.
“In a lot of ways, this is the heart of the code,” said Goebel, and those seated around the table seemed in complete agreement.
During the discussion, attorney Tim Thulson asked about unlisted uses, in which land use types that are not specifically mentioned may be permitted based on rulings by either the planning director or the BOCC.
Garvin said the revised land use code at this point would have such decisions start as an administrative review by the director, but with a provision for sending the matter to the BOCC based on certain criteria, such as size of the parcel involved or the parking demands that might arise from a certain use.
Thulson also asked about rules concerning small contractor’s yards, which in the proposed revisions could only have zero hired employees.
“That’s probably where we have the most potential for growth,” Thulson said, referring to small businesses around the county. He suggested that up to five employees should be acceptable even for a “mom and pop operation.”
As other objections were raised, with suggestions for further modifications, Garvin pointed out, “This is first blush, so if it needs to change, let us know.”
She told the Post Independent that the next meeting with the Working Group is scheduled for November. The goal is to submit a final draft of proposed revisions to the BOCC in December.
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