There is a lot that is included in a land use code, and the La Plata County commissioners have now given residents a peek at their work, which incorporates input from multiple local working groups that began meeting in 2016.
The county’s code is not complete, and that is on purpose. One, it encourages comments now, early in the process. And, two, more importantly, it makes it easier for the code to be adjusted in response to the public. Three rounds of review and revision are planned for each of the three modules that address new development in the county.
Reactions to the draft of the first module at recent community meetings were considerable. That is because government-set conditions can add to property values, and take away from them. The United States was partially built on the value of property values, and they are especially important in the West. That is La Plata County.
The county’s land use code will provide for grandfathering. It will not include gun ownership, and it will not regulate use of an ATV. And, from the comments so far, it is unlikely to have any content dealing with farm animals. Nor will there be a permit required for gatherings of more than 25 people.
If the county code is successful, it will increase property values across the county while balancing taxpayer costs for road maintenance and emergency services. Owners, with large and small acreages, will use their property as they see fit and to their own benefit without negatively impacting their neighbors’ property. What their neighbors do with their property may well increase the value of their own.
The natural beauty of landscapes and backdrops so prevalent in La Plata County will continue to be appealing. The predictability, which is needed to maintain values and to foster investment, will be there.
Property owners will know, very early in the planning approval process, what is possible. Those considering purchasing property will be assured that historic land uses will continue, or what can be added.
Will there be 100 percent certainty? No. But the likelihood of knowing – that needed predictability – will be much, much greater with a code in place. La Plata County is currently one of four of 64 Colorado counties without zoning.
Tuesday evening’s crowd at the La Plata County Fairgrounds was eager to comment; about 30 people went to the microphone. There was much more criticism and fault-finding than praise. Applause and shouts to varying degrees supported many comments. But the crowd was civil. Noise was brief, and there were no personal attacks.
Not surprisingly, those most passionate about elements of the plan were most likely to speak out in a large, public setting. Those closer to the middle, waiting until more information is available to inform their thinking, were probably not in attendance. Their comments will come in meetings on the street, online at http://bit.ly/2Dk4UAd or at points further along in the process.
In code compilation, the commissioners have included a large number of residents working in groups who have different interests and backgrounds. And now they have begun to take their handiwork to a larger audience. The final result will be a code that is applicable and adds value for as many property owners as possible. Stay engaged.
An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that La Plata County is one of four of Colorado’s 64 counties without a land-use code. The county does have a code that dates back to the late ’80s and is what is currently being updated. What it does not have, and the final updated code would include, is zoning that specifies what uses are allowed in a particular area.