County development code revisions suggested |

County development code revisions suggested

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County land-use code revisions may include a shortened process for smaller development projects in unincorporated parts of the county, and an overhaul of some of the review provisions for larger subdivisions.

That’s according to a set of recommendations presented to the Garfield Board of County Commissioners Tuesday by planning consultants Clarion Associates of Denver.

The recommendations also cover updating zone districts to match the county’s recently updated comprehensive plan, and changes in land use regulations related to the oil and gas industry.

The BOCC is expected to establish a formal advisory board in January to refine the recommendations and move the process on to the next step.

Last March, the BOCC set up a local working group, including land use attorneys, developers and planners, to collaborate with the hired consultants in identifying possible code changes.

The intent is to create a more business-friendly regulatory environment in an effort to spur economic development.

Once finalized, a formal proposal, called a text amendment, would go before the Garfield County Planning Commission and then to the county commissioners for public hearings.

At the Tuesday meeting, BOCC Chairman John Martin said he’d like to have a formal proposal ready for adoption soon after the first of the year.

The working group is scheduled to meet next week, and is tentatively scheduled to make its comments on the recommended code revisions at the regular Dec. 19 BOCC meeting.

“There has been a substantial effort to streamline review processes, eliminate redundancies, and eliminate antiquated and never-used provisions,” county building and planning director Fred Jarman said by email after the Tuesday meeting.

Areas of the county’s oil and gas land-use code that are suggested for further review include sections related to surface uses for fracking operations in remote areas, setbacks in resource lands, injection wells, communication towers, on-site housing and reclamation bonding.

The effort is also designed to make the land use code more readable and functional, broaden some of the specific use categories, and generally allow more flexibility, he said.

For instance, one recommended change applies to the timing within a subdivision review process governing when a developer must provide proof of a legal water source.

Instead of requiring proof at the so-called preliminary plan stage, as the code currently requires, the recommended changes would shift that to the final plat stage, Jarman explained.

Since the review began, more than 100 pages have been recommended for elimination from the 488-page county land-use code, he said.

The recommendations would also give the planning director greater discretion over such things as minor changes to approved permits, and interpreting certain uses that are not specifically listed in the code. The list would also be updated to include some of those anticipated new uses.

One local planning consultant, Davis Farrar of Western Slope Consulting, commented at the Tuesday meeting that the real test for any revisions that are made is when an application goes through the new process.

“This is a move in the right direction for some of the regulations and the application process,” he said.

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