Sullivan challenges Jankovsky for Garfield County District 1 commissioner seat
Learn more about commission candidates
Look for the Post Independent’s Q&As with Republican incumbent Tom Jankovsky on Tuesday, Sept. 30, and with Democratic challenger Michael Sullivan on Wednesday, Oct. 1.
Also, the candidates will debate the issues during the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s Issues and Answers Forum the evening of Oct. 14 at Glenwood Springs City Hall.
(Editor’s note: This is the first of three stories this week about this year’s contested Garfield County Commission race.)
A rewrite of the Garfield County land-use code was necessary on one level, but went too far in the end, says Michael Sullivan, who points to the recent code changes as one of the main reasons prompting him to challenge incumbent Tom Jankovsky for county commissioner.
“I was very proud of the work we did on the comprehensive plan after I joined the [county] planning commission,” Sullivan, a Democrat, says of the comprehensive plan amendment process he took part in after being appointed to the panel six years ago.
He strongly disagreed with a decision by the county commissioners in 2011 to adopt the amended plan as an advisory document only, rather than requiring land-use applications to conform to the plan.
Likewise, the first round of revisions to the larger land-use code, which he also had a hand in, were needed to bring efficiencies to and streamline the land-use application and review process, Sullivan said.
But a second round of revisions that eliminated several provisions he said were meant to give voice to and protect the public was a “disaster” that resulted in an “avalanche of deregulation,” Sullivan said.
“There is a large contingency of people in this county who are not being represented on the board,” said Sullivan, who is challenging Jankovsky for the District 1 seat in the Nov. 4 election.
On issues ranging from general land use to taking a strong stand against oil and gas development in the Thompson Divide area, “Someone needs to step up and give voice to those people,” Sullivan said.
Jankovsky disagrees that the code revisions were detrimental in any way, and firmly believes they were necessary to help kick-start the economy following the recession. The code as it was written was too cumbersome, he says, and contained too many regulatory barriers.
“A lot of what we did was to say we’re open for business here in Garfield County,” said Jankovsky, who is seeking a second four-year term on the county board representing the southeast corner of the county, including Carbondale and most of Glenwood Springs.
Although county commissioners represent a specific area of the county, they are elected by voters countywide.
“There are times when government just needs to get out of the way and let business do its job,” Jankovsky says.
Jankovsky stands behind the decision to make the comprehensive plan an advisory document.
“The comp plan is a master plan looking at the county from a 50,000-foot view for the next 20 years,” he said. “As a mandatory document, it can go from a tool to a blockade.
The follow-up code changes were simply meant to streamline the process and cut red tape, Jankovsky said.
Sullivan counters that the code revisions eroded the public review process in many cases, including making off-pad oil and gas production surface facilities that are now often consolidated into centralized areas a use by right without a public review if they remain below a certain size.
He notes that the planning commission unanimously recommended such facilities go through what’s called a “limited impact review” regardless of size, if they are proposed within rural residential zone districts. County commissioners rejected that recommendation.
Jankovsky said the main issues prompting him to seek re-election relate to his campaign pledge four years ago to focus on jobs and the economy.
But federal decisions on issues such as the review of oil and gas issues that were already issued to the possible listing of the greater sage-grouse are “tying up” hundreds of thousands of acres of land where resource development is crucial to the county’s economy, Jankovsky said.
“That is one of the biggest frustrations for me, and also the biggest reason I want to run for four more years,” said Jankovsky, who has been influential in the county’s role as a cooperating agency on several federal land decisions in recent years.
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Monday’s arrival of the Garfield Re-2 School District’s mask mandate was met by an organized protest and march in Rifle.