Garfield County Commissioner Martin seeks leniency on county land-use extensions
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Real estate developers in unincorporated Garfield County may be given more time to proceed with their projects following preliminary approvals, under a proposal being considered by county commissioners.
“In these economic hard times … I think we need some flexibility to allow more time for people to work things out before losing their development approvals,” commission Chairman John Martin said at Monday’s commissioner meeting.
Currently, land-use applicants are given up to one year from the time a preliminary plan is approved by the county to return with a final plat application. A one-year extension can be requested after the initial year is up, but only once.
“We’re looking at the hard times hitting us everywhere, and a lot of these people are going to need that extra time to work through their problems,” Martin said.
Eric McCafferty, a Glenwood Springs-based land use consultant, said he has received a number of calls from developers wanting to proceed with their plans, but needing more time to line up financing and other aspects before they’re ready to go to final plat.
Many have already invested a significant amount of money to go through the preliminary plan stage of review with the county, he said.
“In normal times, it doesn’t take much to get the financing in place and proceed to final plat,” McCafferty said. “But these are not normal economic times.”
In some instances, he said development properties have reverted to lending agencies through foreclosure or bankruptcy, but the land-use approvals are still intact.
However, not being in the development business, banks aren’t inclined to try to maintain the value of the property without some additional time to work things out, he said.
Commissioners Mike Samson and Tresi Houpt agreed that it may be prudent to create some more flexibility in the planning process, and voted with Martin to direct staff to come up with an amendment to the county’s land-use code reflecting that desire.
However, Houpt said the county needs to be careful not to let development approvals stay in effect for too long.
“There have been times when things drag on too long and some of these developments are no longer appropriate,” she said. “Our ultimate goal is to create some flexibility, but I don’t want the county to be boxed in.”
McCafferty said he, too, sees the need to limit how long development approvals can stay in place, especially if there are major revisions to the county’s comprehensive plan.
Commissioners will review and hold a public hearing on the requested land-use code amendment before deciding on the change.
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