County wants feedback on land use revisions
Post Independent Staff
Garfield County recently learned there are some wacky land use codes across the United States.
“In one county, if a public hearing goes beyond two hours, the developer is charged overtime for it,” said Garfield County planner Randy Russell.
Garfield County holds this year’s final public input meeting for its land use revision project at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25, at Garfield County Courthouse Plaza.
Russell said it’s important for residents – recreationists, conservationists, developers, agricultural interests, those in the real estate industry, property owners, those interested in transit issues, and others – to tell the county what they want for new land use regulations.
“Hardly anyone is not impacted with the way the county handles development,” Russell said. “The people are an important part of the review process.”
Garfield County is using a $50,000 Smart Growth grant from the state of Colorado to help fund the land use regulation project, which will conclude with formal public hearings in late 2004, Russell said.
The project currently revolves around a discussion paper prepared by consultants Sullivan Green Seavy LLC, and Norris Dullea, that the county planning staff will fine-tune to pinpoint specific concerns.
“We have to tell the consultants where to focus their recommendations,” Russell said. “The discussion paper suggests a wide range of options. Now the process is under way to narrow things down.”
Better definitions for land uses
The county is especially interested in coming up with better, more specific definitions to apply in its new land use regulations. That’s because the county code is based on exclusionary zoning, which dictates uses that can and cannot be allowed.
“Our code refers to `trailer parks,'” Russell said. “But these days, there are RV parks and mobile home communities.”
A bed and breakfast is defined is a “boarding house” in the county’s existing definitions. “We really have to upgrade our definition standards,” Russell said.
The new definitions will be used as tools when the county starts rewriting its new land use regulations next year.
“Right now, our codes are a patchwork that are difficult to understand,” Russell said.
Not only are the codes sometimes difficult to understand, sometimes they create extra work for the county planning staff and for developers and land owners.
Russell said that’s what happened when Ironbridge Golf Course developers had to resubmit several boxes and file folders of planning materials just for a simple amendment to their planned unit development.
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin stressed the current land use review isn’t intended to change existing zoning, but new zoning could result from new land use regulations after the new document is in place.
Said Russell, “The county has committed to examine its zoning and subdivision regulations from A to Z, and start from scratch in building a new, unified development code.”
The county held public input sessions for ranchers, developers and the public in August. Thursday’s meeting is scheduled to give everyone a final opportunity to comment early in the process.
Russell said members of the agricultural community have already said they want to preserve the right to subdivide their land.
“Their comments have been pretty rich,” Russell said.
Information: Garfield County building and planning department, 945-8212.
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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