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Garfield County code hearing continued again

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County commissioners on Monday again continued their public hearing for consideration of a proposed overhaul of the county’s 2008 land-use and development code.

After nearly three hours of discussion and testimony focusing on the development standards portion of the proposed code amendments, the hearing was continued until the afternoon session of the May 20 BOCC meeting.

The code revisions were recommended by a special advisory committee made up of citizens as well as industry and development interests last year, and were passed along to the county commissioners following review by the Garfield County Planning Commission.

County commissioners asked for the code rewrite in an effort to make the land-use review process shorter and more efficient, and to remove what they viewed as “regulatory barriers” to economic development.

The proposed new code will change the way everything from small residential subdivisions to large commercial and industrial projects, including oil and gas facilities, and major planned unit development proposals, are reviewed.

Critics of the code revisions, however, said the proposed changes are geared toward development and specific industry interests, including oil and gas and other heavy industry, at the expense of the general public.

“I don’t think the public understands the ramifications of what you are about to do here,” said Glenwood Springs resident Mary Russell, who called on the commissioners to allow more time for public input on the code changes.

Commissioners were also presented with an additional 120 signatures on a petition asking that the mandatory compliance language be returned to the separate, but related Garfield County Comprehensive Plan.

The commissioners decided prior to the land-use code rewrite that the 2010 master land-use plan should be advisory, rather than mandatory. That language is reflected in the new code recommendations.

Last week, political activist Anita Sherman of Glenwood Springs presented the first 185 petition signatures asking for the compliance wording to be added back in.

Supporters say the code revisions strike a balance between local controls to protect the public and neighbors of newly proposed land uses and burdensome regulation.

“I don’t feel that the people’s rights are being abridged here in Garfield County,” said Phil Vaughn, a former county planning commissioner and construction contractor from Rulison.

“This code, in my opinion, is not a free-for-all” for developers, Vaughn said.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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