Since 2016, the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners has made revising the land use code a priority project so that we can bring predictability to the development process, bolster economic development and diversity, and streamline the planning process so that those bringing projects through have certainty about the outcome.
Our current code, which relies on an in-depth assessment of each project for feasibility and compatibility – a process that is time-consuming and costly for applicants and staff alike – has drawn many complaints from those who have been through the process.
As a result, this Board of County Commissioners first set about to hire an outside consultant to craft a new code. When the first draft of that code was released for public comment last November, though, we quickly realized we were not on the right path.
We have adjusted course.
The land use code revision project is continuing as an internally-led effort that draws on staff resources, reviews of land use codes from similar counties in Colorado and existing work products, to craft a code that works for La Plata County.
The Board of County Commissioners is seeking public input to help inform us as we give staff direction on how to address specific issues in the land use code.
There are a number of outstanding policy issues that the Board of County Commissioners will give staff direction on how to address in the code revision process.
Many of these were identified as problem areas when the proposed code, drafted by consultants, was released for public comment.
To ensure that we are hearing from the community about these important topics, the commissioners are considering these policy questions, after seeking public input on each of the issues, as well as considering best practices from a staff review of land use regulations in seven other Colorado counties.
The topics we identified for study and consideration under this model are:
Portable storage (completed in July) Special events (completed in July) Zoning Areas and activities of state interest: 1041 powers Sensitive landsRoadsWater Site-specific compatibility considerations Modifications to existing Transitional Area Development Standards (TADS) Subdivisions Additional policies to encourage growth in desired areas Affordable housing Short-term rentalsThe Board of County Commissioners is holding a series of work sessions with staff to discuss the policy topics, and to receive background information, as well as staff recommendations and public input.
Some of these sessions will be reserved for background information and education regarding a policy topic and its related issues.
Culminating each policy topic will be a work session during which the commissioners provide staff direction on how to address the relevant policy topic when drafting the land use code.
All related materials are distributed to the public in advance of the work sessions.
Following work sessions reserved for background discussion and education, all related materials, as well as policy memos and a public input tool, are posted to the County Planning website, and distributed to newsletter subscribers and other community contact lists to seek public input on the topic and how it should be addressed in the revised land use code.
The public input period for each policy topic will be open for at least two weeks, after which time staff compiles this input to help inform the direction that the commissioners provide for drafting the code.
Zoning is clearly a policy topic that draws great interest from the community and that is why we have been going especially slowly in researching and understanding this issue.
To date, we have held three work sessions on zoning, and will hold another from 2-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4 in the Board Room at 1101 E. 2nd Ave.
During this session, we will review the public comment we have received to date (that public comment period was open from Oct. 11 through Nov. 10), and then take additional public input from those who attend the meeting and provide staff with direction on how to address zoning in the code revision.
We are committed to developing a revised land use code that works for all of La Plata County, and have established a process to gather as much public input as possible to inform this goal.
We are now in the fact-finding phase of a project that is critically important to La Plata County, and are not considering anything for adoption at this time.
Instead, we are methodically educating ourselves and the community about important policy topics that the code will address, and instructing staff to craft a code that meets the community’s needs.
Once we have completed this policy direction process, we will then set about to draft a new proposed code that will, again, be presented to the public for input, review and revision. Only after that will a new code be adopted.
We want to get this right and need your help to do so.
Gwen Lachelt is chair of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners. Reach her at (970) 382-6219.