Proposed county land use code touted as clearer, less onerous |

Proposed county land use code touted as clearer, less onerous

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Proposed new Garfield County land use regulations are more streamlined and user-friendly, and eliminate inconsistencies and unneeded bureaucratic reviews, say those involved in drafting them.Phil Vaughan, chairman of the county Planning Commission, joined county building and planning director Fred Jarman in briefing county commissioners on the proposal this week.The commission met about 46 times to work on the code update, with some members putting in as many as 600 hours on it, Vaughan said.”We’re proud of the document that we’ve set forth,” he said.The Planning Commission certified the code Sept. 26. Now county commissioners will begin taking a look at it. County Commissioner John Martin said it could be as late as next June before it is adopted.County planning officials believe the new planning regulations will be less onerous. For example, people seeking permits to build accessory dwellings or run home businesses could do that just by undergoing a review by a county staff, rather than a public hearing. However, a hearing could be required if it is seen as necessary.”We’re simply trying to recognize where time should be spent. We’re trying to make some sense of matching code with where we think public policy ought to be,” Vaughan said.The new code also lays out a way for an applicant to seek a nonsubstantial change to an approved preliminary development plan without having to start over again with a new public hearing process.When a subdivision is proposed, the code would require a formal meeting between the developer and county staff so direction could be provided regarding the county’s review process, standards, requirements, fees, etc. In exchange, an initial sketch plan review that’s now mandatory would become optional. That review requires a Planning Commission meeting even though no decision is made.The Planning Commission had considered changes to its current affordable housing requirements, under which planned unit developments in the Glenwood Springs and Carbondale areas must provide 10 percent affordable housing. Among the proposed changes was to increase that percentage and require affordable housing of commercial developments.However, the commission decided to hold off on any immediate such changes, except to expand the requirements west as far as Parachute/Battlement Mesa, as housing demand, development and prices have increased in the Colorado River Valley.”Ten years ago, 12 years ago, Garfield County was a different place in terms of where growth was occurring,” Vaughan said.Under another change, land now designated as open space instead will be called public space, to make clear it is open to public use.The new code proposes to provide incentives such as housing density bonuses and zoning flexibility to residential subdivision proposals in which developers agree to preserve land from development through means such as clustering homes and reducing lot sizes.The Planning Commission this summer had considered including separate provisions applying to energy development, but decided not to go that route so late into the rewriting process. The commission decided energy land uses already are dealt with in other portions of the code.”Separate chapters for separate kinds of industries may not be the best way to go,” Jarman said.Patrick Barker, a staff member for the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, urged county commissioners this week to continue to consider at some point adopting a separate energy industry code. He said it would help promote the health and safety of residents, and make it easier for them to understand permitting processes related to the industry.Martin said the new code is well-indexed and should be easier for residents to follow.Commissioner Trési Houpt told Barker there will be opportunities for the public to comment further on the new code as commissioners undertake their review of it.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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