Planning Commission rejects Cattle Creek rezoning
The Garfield County Planning Commission Wednesday night unanimously rejected a developer’s proposal to rezone a 43-acre parcel on Highway 82 near Cattle Creek Road for commercial use, forwarding a recommendation for denial to county commissioners.
A representative for the property owner said after the meeting that she was not sure if the matter will be taken before the commissioners.
The parcel is owned by Garfield County Commercial Investments LLC, a subsidiary of Carbondale Investments LLC, which also owns the adjacent River Edge Planned Unit Development.
The neighboring River Edge plans for 366 residential units, and a separate request before the planning commission Wednesday called for amending that plan to move the main access from the main Cattle Creek intersection to go the adjacent parcel that was proposed to be rezoned. It was unclear at press time what the outcome of that request would be.
The request to rezone the 43-acre parcel for a commercial hub next door has been somewhat controversial, drawing objections from Carbondale and Glenwood Springs officials and prompting a recommendation for denial by county planning staff.
The parcel is currently zoned “residential suburban,” and the applicants were looking to change it to “commercial general.”
For the planning commission to recommend a rezoning, one of two things needed to happen. First the applicant can demonstrate that the original zoning is somehow in error, but that’s not what Garfield County Commercial Investments was doing.
The other option is for an applicant to meet four criteria: Demonstrate that the rezoning would form a logical pattern for development, that the area is changing such that the rezoning is to the public’s benefit, that there is a public need, and that the rezoning conforms to the Garfield County Comprehensive Plan.
In the end, the advisory board held that the company did not meet these requirements.
Board member Greg McKennis said he was most concerned that the rezoning goes against the principles of the county’s comprehensive plan.
Both Glenwood Springs and Carbondale recommended denying the application, largely out of fear that a robust commercial district in unincorporated Garfield County would suck sales tax dollars away from the two cities.
The comprehensive plan is very clear that the county will support its towns and not approve large commercial developments outside city limits, said McKennis.
Beyond the concern about businesses in unincorporated areas pulling taxes from the cities, board members were concerned about the lack of detail in the application – it did not say what type of development was planned – as well as the strategy of pursuing a zone change in the first place.
Carolynne White, the company’s attorney, described the property being used for retail-type businesses.
But the planning commission’s decision was strictly about rezoning, and the county’s general commercial zone allows about 100 different uses, said Kathy Eastley, the county’s senior planner.
General commercial zoning would allow businesses like retail shops and restaurants, but there is nothing in their application or the rezoning process that would keep them from incorporating industrial uses, she said.
The zoning change would eliminate some uses on the land, including manufactured home parks, agriculture, forestry or injection wells. In their place, other uses would be permitted, like retail stores, theaters, community centers, libraries, offices, recycling collection centers and restaurants.
Suburban residential and general commercial zoning overlap in many ways, for instance allowing homes, parks, small employee housing facilities, oil and gas drilling and production and remote fracking facilities.
Garfield County staff also recommended denying the rezoning application.
White responded that her client’s intent was for retail businesses on the parcel, and that the market would push its businesses in the direction of retail anyway.
And White pointed to a growing population in the Roaring Fork Valley, people who’ll want access to retail businesses closer by.
Rezoning the area to general commercial would also increase the number of potential lots by reducing the minimum size for each lot. Whereas the parcel zoned for residential suburban can fit 94 residential lots, it could fit up to 251 lots if zoned as commercial general.
The company could have picked another route, such as applying for a planned unit development, which would have detailed the type of development and made the process more transparent for the board, said McKennis.
Board member Stephen Damm said he saw a lot of reasons to approve the commercial area, but that the applicant had used the wrong vehicle to get there.
Following the board’s denial, White said her client had not decided whether to make their pitch to county commissioners regarding the application.
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