Garfield County staff unsure about new land-use review changes
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County’s planning director said he remains unsure about the full scope of changes in the county’s development review process in the wake of recent land-use policy decisions by the board of county commissioners (BOCC).But even as the county adapts to a new understanding of development applications, the county planning office has received a request to redesignate a nearly-closed gravel pit on Highway 82 as an industrial “rural employment center.”Regarding the recent changes to the land use code, “It is unclear at the moment if the BOCC will decide it wants to review all land use changes or if it wishes its staff to make administrative decisions where there are clear review standards,” wrote Building and Planning Director Fred Jarman in an e-mail to the Post Independent.”The BOCC will ultimately make this decision,” Jarman concluded.The BOCC modified the language of the county’s land use regulations, known as the county code, in votes taken on Aug. 15 and 22.The modified language was directly aimed at how the code relates to the county’s recently adopted Comprehensive Plan 2030, or comp plan, specifically ensuring that the comp plan is “advisory” rather than “mandatory” in nature.Jarman stated that his department already had increased the use of administrative reviews of development proposals. In these cases, Jarman directly approves or denies development applications. He can also attach conditions to applications that are approved.The increased use of administrative reviews followed the direction of the BOCC earlier in 2011. This arrangement “has resulted in significant time and money savings to applicants,” Jarman reported.The savings, he wrote, are due to the fact that the applicants in many cases no longer are required to go through a more expensive process of public notice of hearings, and making presentations at hearings before the planning and zoning commission (P&Z) and the BOCC.”This administrative review has also relieved the BOCC docket,” Jarman wrote, referring to the number of public hearings and other meetings, which took up a large portion of the board’s regular Monday meetings prior to the recent changes in the process.Jarman also wrote that the BOCC may decide to alter the different kinds of review that call for hearings before either the BOCC or the P&Z.The two more intensive levels of review currently are a Major Impact Review, requiring a hearing at the P&Z and another hearing at the BOCC, and the Limited Impact Review, requiring only a hearing before the P&Z.”The BOCC may decide to amend the level of review certain uses are required to have,” Jarman explained, changing the required review for some uses from a Major to a Limited impact review.Some observers were concerned the changes would mean a reduction in the work performed by the P&Z. But according to long-range planner Tamra Allen, the P&Z’s workload is not likely to be diminished by the changes.”The board has asked that staff and the (P&Z) continue to review applications for conformance/general conformance with the [comp] plan,” Allen wrote in a separate email.In addition to the changes to the code, Allen confirmed that there will be changes made to the comp plan itself, starting with a modification of the plan’s land-use map.The Crystal Ranch Corp., owner of the Powers gravel pit at the corner of County Road 103 (Crystal Springs Road) and Highway 82, has applied for an amendment to the comp plan map to designate the old pit as a “rural employment center.””Rural employment centers are geographically consolidated areas where there is a concentration of light industrial and business park uses,” Allen explained. “This includes such uses as construction yards, equipment repair and storage areas often found along I-70 or [Highway] 82.”The old Powers gravel pit, which has been a visible industrial reminder to valley commuters for decades, was to have been closed and revegetated over the next two years, under the terms of its approvals.Allen said the new designation would be linked to the owners’ plans to continue to run a batch plant at the pit, using gravel from the nearby Cerise Ranch gravel operation recently approved by the BOCC.email@example.com
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