Get involved in land use planning in La Plata County

Friday, June 1, 2018 11:15 PM

We have been hearing from many of you expressing interest in and concerns about the land use code and district plan update processes, and we very much appreciate your involvement.

We want to give you an overview of how the various long-range planning tools – comprehensive plans, district plans and land use code – are developed and implemented, as well as update you on how the county is approaching these two efforts and explain how they will interact.

Our goal with all of these is for La Plata County to look toward the future by updating and revising the long-range planning policies and regulations that address development in the county. The Planning Commission oversees the Comprehensive Plan and District Plans, which are advisory documents that describe the vision for future growth in La Plata County.

The comprehensive plan establishes the countywide vision; district plans address the unique characteristics of each of La Plata County’s 12 planning districts.

The Planning Commission updated the Comprehensive Plan in 2017 after two years of public input. Now, the Planning Commission is working on updating the District Plans and has established a process for doing so involving district outreach meetings, resources for residents to provide input and staff support. The District Plan update process is expected to continue into 2019.

The land use code holds the regulations that govern where and how development occurs in unincorporated La Plata County. The Board of County Commissioners adopts these regulations, which are binding – unlike the Comprehensive Plan and District Plans, which are advisory in nature. Our current Land Use Code, adopted in the late 1980s, makes it time-consuming and costly for applicants because every project requires a case-by-case analysis for impacts and compatibility with neighboring properties.

We have made revising the code a priority so that it works better to give predictability to folks seeking to bring a new project into the county. The first draft of the revised code missed the mark in many ways, and as a result, we have crafted a new approach to revising the Land Use Code. We heard the community loud and clear and are modifying our course.

La Plata County staff will lead the drafting for a revised Land Use Code, and the commissioners will give policy direction on these topics that are of specific public interest: outdoor storage; special events; zoning; areas and activities of state interest; 1041 powers; sensitive lands; roads; water; site-specific compatibility considerations; modifications to existing Transitional Area Development Standards; subdivisions; additional policies to encourage growth in desired areas; affordable housing; and short-term rentals.

These policy conversations will take place over the next six months, with an opportunity for public input on each topic before the three of us give staff direction on the topic.

We have begun this process and have released the first two sets of memos for public input on how the county should regulate outdoor storage and special events.

We will discuss this in a work session with staff from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. June 12 in the board room of the County Administration Building, 1101 E. 2nd Ave. The public is welcome to attend, and we will also stream this session on Facebook (@LaPlataCounty).

During the work session, we will provide staff with direction on how to address each of these topics when drafting the Land Use Code. We will repeat the same process for the remaining policy topics.

This policy direction process and subsequent drafting will occur at the same time as the Planning Commission’s District Plan update process. We will not adopt a new Land Use Code until after all of the District Plans in La Plata County have been updated.

We have learned that it is more important to get the land use code and district plans right than it is to get them done quickly, and we very much encourage the community to get involved in the District Plan updates and in the Land Use Code revision process. We want to hear what is important to you as we all work together to help shape La Plata County’s future!

A great way to stay involved and updated is to sign up for the planning newsletter: We use this list to distribute policy memos, notify folks about upcoming meetings and opportunities for public input on both the land use code and the district plans, as well as to keep the community informed about projects going through the planning process.

You can also visit the planning website at for more information and resources to get involved.

The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners is comprised of Gwen Lachelt, chairwoman, Brad Blake, vice chairman, and Julie Westendorff. Reach them at (970) 382-6219.