Garfield County adopts revised land-use code
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — After more than a year’s worth of review, deletions, rewrites, revisions and countless hours of public meetings, Garfield County commissioners on Monday formally signed off on a new land-use code for the county.
The amended Garfield County Land Use and Development Code of 2013 replaces the former Unified Land Use Resolution, which was last amended by the county commissioners in 2008. County commissioners unanimously adopted the new code at their regular Monday meeting.
The new code does away with more than 200 pages, or 43 percent, of the former code, and eliminates what were viewed by the commissioners, their special code advisory committee and the county planning commission as redundancies.
The code rewrite was mainly an attempt by the commissioners to make the rules easier to understand, streamline the development review process and remove what were perceived to be regulatory barriers to economic development.
“This is a big deal,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who recalled his campaign pledge three years ago “to support economic development and jobs in our county.”
“Any time we can work together with private interests to remove the red tape and make that happen, we should do that,” he said. “We now have many more different types of uses by right … and we’ve cut down on the time it takes to go through our process.”
For instance, small subdivisions of no more than three lots are now subject to a streamlined administrative review, rather than having to go through the planning commission and the county commissioners.
“This provides relief to small lot owners and improves the value of their land,” Jankovsky said.
At the same time, “I think we’ve done a good job of maintaining the integrity of our code” as it relates to protecting the air, water and wildlife, preserving the county’s right to farm provisions, and providing for affordable housing in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Garfield County.
Commission Chairman John Martin called the new code a “living, breathing document” that can continue to be reviewed and revised as needed over time.
Already, in fact, commissioners sent two proposed text amendments related to oil and gas facilities back to the county’s planning commission for review. One of those would clarify that remote hydraulic fracturing operations at approved Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission lease locations is a use by right.
Although the provision is addressed elsewhere in the code, commissioners agreed with industry representatives who attended Monday’s meeting to revise an additional reference to make it more clear that remote fracking can occur without a county permit.
Earlier in the process, following a recommendation from the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the county commissioners agreed to retain language requiring a 35-foot setback for residential, commercial and industrial development along rivers and other waterways in the county.
The county’s land-use code advisory committee had initially recommended doing away with that and other water-quality control protections in the county’s code, deferring instead to state and federal regulations.
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