Petition seeks to put bite back into Garfield County comp plan
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A petition containing 185 signatures was presented to the Garfield County commissioners Tuesday, asking that the former regulatory compliance language be returned to the county comprehensive land-use plan.
“The comprehensive plan is an opportunity for greater public input on high-impact development and industries,” Glenwood Springs resident Anita Sherman said in presenting the petitions during a public hearing to consider an extensive set of recommended changes to the county’s land-use code.
The petition calls on the commissioners to reinstate language that they removed from the 2010 comprehensive plan a year after it was adopted, which declared the document to be advisory in nature.
Previously, larger developments in particular had to show they were in compliance with the county’s comprehensive plan. Otherwise, developers had to request a plan amendment in order to proceed.
“The comprehensive plan is meant to provide a measure of checks and balances that ensure accountability to the public whenever permits are issued,” Sherman said. “Without compliance, the comp plan is nothing more than a discretionary advisory document without any protective process for the public.”
Her comments came after Commissioner Tom Jankovsky sought to ensure that the proposed land-use code revisions reflect the board’s desire for the comp plan to remain advisory, and not become mandatory.
While the proposed new land-use code suggests “general conformance” with the comprehensive plan in most cases, state law still requires compliance for certain types of development and land uses, deputy county attorney Carey Gagnon explained to the commissioners.
The code revisions were requested by the county commissioners in an effort to spur economic development by streamlining the land-use review process and removing regulatory barriers .
Commissioners began the tedious process Tuesday of working through the county planning commission’s recommendations. The changes, if approved, would eliminate more than 200 pages from the county land-use code, for an overall 43 percent reduction in the length of the document.
After addressing six of the 16 sections of the code, the commissioners continued the public hearing to their regular May 13 meeting. The hearing will resume at 1 p.m. that day.
Second round of revisions
Following an initial round of code amendments suggested by a consulting group early last year, commissioners appointed a special citizens advisory committee to essentially rewrite the land-use code.
Those suggestions were sent to the county planning commission for review, resulting in the recommendations now before the Board of County Commissioners.
The revisions 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.
“Most of the process was focused on making the overall code more efficient,” said Tamra Allen, the county planner who oversaw the code rewrite. “We also reduced the level of redundancy in the code, and did away with a lot of the contradictions.”
One major change in the section dealing with planned unit developments is the proposed removal of the open space requirement, Allen said.
Instead of requiring 25 percent of a development to be open space, as the current code requires, the new code would leave it up to the developer to suggest an appropriate open space dedication, she said.
Sherman and some other members of the public who were at the Tuesday meeting questioned the removal of the open space requirement.
A “collaborative effort” between the county and developers to identify open space needs is fine, Sherman said.
“But I have some hesitation about completely removing the [percentage] requirement,” she said.
Other sections of the proposed code changes discussed on Tuesday related to land-use change permits and zoning. Next week, the discussion will focus on suggested changes related to development standards, affordable housing, pipelines, non-conforming uses and signs.
Sections of the proposed new code related to violations, enforcement, penalties and appeals are also yet to be covered.
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