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County rewriting land use regulations

After 27 years, Garfield County has revised its land use regulations. While its made amendments to the regulations over the years, issued in 1973 when the county was first zoned, this is the first major revision since 1978, said county planning director Mark Bean.The present regulations became cumbersome, Bean said. Amendments made over the years are sometimes in conflict with each other. Bean said his department and the planning and zoning commission worked on the revised zoning and subdivision regulations for two years.The intent of the revision was to bring the code up to date with more current practices and trends in land use and to make it more user friendly, Bean said.Among the changes in the new land use plan are new, consolidated zone districts, although the new zones retain much of the present code. People have a fear that re-zoning will change minimum lot sizes. There is no proposal for that, he said.In the new code, the Agricultural/Residential/Rural Density zone and the Agricultural/Industrial zones were consolidated into the Rural Zone District. The new district keeps the two-acre minimum lot size as well as setbacks and building heights.The problem in the past is people thought if you had Agricultural/Industrial, it was industrial. In fact, its no different than A/R/RD because all the industrial uses allowed in A/R/RD are subject to a Special Use Permit. Theyre not a use by right, Bean said. It made no sense to have two zone districts that are basically identical.Commercial Business is a new zone district tailored for the business areas near the towns and cities in the county, such as the Thunder River Market and neighboring business at the Highway 82 turnoff for Colorado Mountain College, Bean said.Residential Zones have been simplified to include three higher-density zones, from the current five. They allow minimum lot sizes consistent with urban areas, of 7,500-square-foot lot size, a suburban density with 20,000-square-foot lots and a zone for certain mobile home developments, Bean said.We felt it made more sense to merge (the zones) into more logical (ones).Federal lands under the jurisdiction of either the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service have been re-zoned Public Lands. Those lands are currently zoned Open Space, Bean said.Much of what the planning department heard in focus groups held in 2003 were comments about the subdivision process. People complained they were too time consuming and costly, especially for a simple lot split.Bean said his department and the P&Z tried to craft a minor and major exemption process geared toward lot splits and subdivisions. Although the new plan has both a minor and major subdivision process, the minor process is about as cumbersome as the major, Bean said, because it must comply with state law.We cant cut it short, Bean said. But we can minimize the level of detail that a land owner has to submit for a minor subdivision.With a full-blown subdivision application, new levels of information will now be required, including environmental and physical constraints on the land, in order to justify construction.Provided they do their homework the process should result in less contention, he said. Bean also encourages people to read the new regulations on-line and make comments to the county via e-mail or regular mail addressed to the Planning Commission, 109 Eighth St., Suite 201, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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