Lachelt: Taking input to heart, Commission works for change

Friday, March 2, 2018 10:30 PM
Gwen Lachelt

Every day there is a lot going on at La Plata County, as our various departments work to provide the services you rely on from your local government.

These services include road maintenance, child and adult protection, public safety through our Sheriff’s Office and countless other critical community functions. Right now, though, one of the highest priorities of the Board of County Commissioners is making sure that the land-use code revision delivers a set of regulations that work for our community – today and going forward.

The three of us recognize that so far, the draft first module misses that essential mark, and we are working hard to correct that. Thanks to all of you who have gotten involved in the code-revision process, we are receiving the input that is essential to getting it right and are now working to incorporate those comments and revise the draft land-use code to better reflect what our community wants and needs to ensure that we meet our goals for the code update.

First and foremost, here are the basics the commissioners have directed staff to start with revising the draft code. They include:

Rewriting the language in the code to be clearer and more conciseRemoving unnecessary termsReorganizing the structure so that it flows logicallyCorrecting inconsistenciesDeveloping a detailed table of contents so that readers know what is in the code and where to find it.Next there are the larger policy issues, and while we still have to sort through some of those and provide staff direction on what revisions to make, there are a couple of things we know need to change.

First, there is draft language regarding portable storage containers. Brad, Julie and I agree that adding new language to the code restricting portable storage container use is inappropriate and have directed staff to strike it from the revised code. In our existing code, there are standards regarding portable storage containers in what’s known as the Transitional Development Area – that is, a defined area around the city of Durango. We have not directed staff to make changes to these provisions, though we will be reviewing them as the code update progresses.

Also, we have heard loud and clear that the special event standards that appeared in the draft first module were far too restrictive, and we agree! The language requiring folks to get a permit for private events with more than 25 people will be significantly modified. The intent was not to restrict family reunions, weddings and barbecues and the draft clearly missed that mark.

There are a number of other policy considerations we will need to make including zoning classifications, and overlay districts, and these are important conversations we hope you will participate in. Your voice is essential to helping us get this right!

We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that we get a land-use code that works for our community and because the first draft module did not meet that goal, we are modifying our approach to the revision. Our staff is stepping in to ensure that the revisions – and the remainder of the code – meets our community’s expectations.

We are examining other Colorado counties’ land-use codes for consistency and best practices and using the community feedback we have received to move forward with the land-use code revision in a manner that more effectively aligns with La Plata County’s character and priorities. As we move forward, we will continue to communicate our progress, the issues we are wrangling with and opportunities for your feedback.

A great way to stay apprised of the land-use code process is to subscribe to the county’s Community Development Services newsletter: These monthly updates alert you to meetings, pending projects and the latest on the land-use code and district plan updates taking place throughout the county’s 12 distinct planning districts.

Gwen Lachelt is chairwoman of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners. Reach her at 382-6219.