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Lachelt, Blake, Westendorff: Code draws community interest, county response

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Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 8:51 PM
Gwen Lachelt
Julie Westendorff
Brad Blake

We are so pleased that the draft first module of La Plata County’s revised Land Use Code has generated so much interest and engagement among our community since we released it for comment in December.

When we made updating the code a priority for the county beginning in 2016, it was our intent as commissioners to create a code that fits our community, makes development and land-use more predictable for property owners and businesses, takes infrastructure into consideration and promotes economic development. That’s a tall order by any stretch, and hearing your concerns and ideas is absolutely essential to getting this right.

What we are hearing and learning as we dive into the code together – as commissioners, staff and the public – is that this first draft has not gotten us there yet. We did not expect it to be perfect, and that’s why we put together a process that allows for plenty of public input – and then expanded those opportunities when we heard very clearly that more meetings were needed.

After hearing that the original comment period on the draft first module of the revised code was not long enough, we extended it by three weeks. We have added public meetings to hear additional input, and we very much appreciate all of the thoughtful suggestions we have received thus far.

And we are just getting going! The Board of County Commissioners will not adopt a code until each of its three modules have been drafted, commented on by the public and revised. Once all that has occurred, we will have a draft code for public review in its entirety before we take action on it. This is a lengthy and involved public process and we want your input!

The revised Land Use Code will replace the current regulations that have been in place since the late 1980s without significant revision to reflect our growing, changing community that needs more predictability for growth and economic development. As we began the project, staff, stakeholders, the public and the three of us developed a list of consensus goals to guide the work. These included:

Streamline and improve the land use permitting process for residentsIncrease predictability and consistency for property owners and applicantsCreate a code that accommodates a larger variety of land uses – which the current code struggles with – including a focus on commercial and light industrial uses which are much needed in the countyIncrease focus on adequate infrastructure – namely water, sewer and road capacitySupport economic development and diversitySustain agricultural production and usesGenerate or improve options for affordable housingImprove the code’s interaction with the 12 district plans across the county. These plans articulate the development priorities for the distinct regions of the county and they are currently being updated. We remain committed to adopting a code that achieves these goals, and we have received many very clear comments and suggestions for revising the draft first module of the code.

We will be providing staff with policy direction soon on what things we would like to see changed in the revised first module draft, and we are listening closely to what you have said. Then, county staff will get down to the work of revising the draft. This will take some time, but we understand the need to have a thorough public process.

We expect it to take several months for this first module to be revised and ready for public review. After that, we will have similar public processes for the remaining two modules, and again for the combined, semi-final code.

Please stick with us as we tackle this project for our community. There are many opportunities to get involved and stay informed, including our monthly planning newsletter: visit http://eepurl.com/cmyrdb to sign up. Thank you for your involvement.

The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners is Gwen Lachelt, chairwoman, Brad Blake, vice chairman, and Julie Westendorff, commissioner. Reach them at 382-6219.

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