La Plata County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously adopted 1041 Regulations, which county officials say will allow greater local say on large-scale projects.
“We’ve been working on this a long time,” Commissioner Clyde Church said. “It’s a process that gives residents a voice.”
1041 Regulations are a Colorado law enacted in 1974 that allows local governments more control over large-scale projects in their jurisdiction, like airports, solar farms or major wastewater treatment plants.
Before Tuesday, 60 of Colorado’s 64 counties had adopted some part of the 1041 Regulations, which function as a permitting process for major projects that local codes and permitting aren’t equipped to handle.
Though La Plata County officials have discussed the possibility of enacting 1041 Regulations for years, discussions picked up in earnest this past winter. Since, there have been three public meetings and a 60-day public comment period that followed the draft codes being released in July.
At a public hearing two weeks ago, about 100 people packed into the county Administration Building, arguing that language of the proposed regulations should be tightened to make it clear the codes apply only to large-scale projects and calling for more time for review.
Others who spoke were outright against the proposed regulations, claiming the county was attempting a power grab and violating private property rights.
County staff over the past two weeks revised the proposed 1041 Regulations to address the concerns raised at that meeting. The revisions received overall praise from the 50 or so residents who attended a meeting Tuesday that lasted more than four hours.
Despite the near unanimous opposition at the last meeting, several residents showed up Tuesday in support of 1041 Regulations.
“I think it brings much needed local control,” said Carolyn Hunter, a local architect. “As our community gets more people, and we know that’s going to happen, we’re going to see larger projects and we need these regulations.”
County resident Betsy Romere was initially skeptical of 1041 Regulations at the last meeting. On Tuesday, however, she voiced her support after learning more about the codes.
“I’m a bottom-up government type of person,” she said. “I would rather have the government have the ability to step up.”
And resident John Gamble said 1041 Regulations in fact protect private property, rather than infringe on it as so many people have claimed.
“I’m a private property rights guy,” he said. “Yet, I know I need a strong local government body with appropriate regulations to help ensure my rights.”
The proposed 1041 Regulations, however, were not without criticism. Many residents continued their call for more time to review the draft regulations, and even proposed a meeting in the evening at the La Plata County Fairgrounds to have a larger discussion.
“We need much more time to go through this,” Skip Paige said. “It’s so complex.”
Critics also called into question the authority and discretion that would be given to the county’s Community Development director, who would decide what level of review a project would go through under the 1041 process.
“It can be corrupted,” said Dale Bell, who lives in the county.
County officials say that responsibility would have checks and balances that include an appeals process that would go before commissioners. An appeal could be made by the developer or any member of the public.
Bob Witt, an Ignacio resident, said 1041 Regulations are a scheme to remove private property rights. He likened La Plata County’s pursuit of the state regulations to moves made by Joseph Stalin, who led the Soviet Union from the 1920s to 1950s.
“Socialism, genocide, a 100 million people in the last generation, is that where we’re headed?” Witt asked.
1041 Regulations, which were initially called for by local governments who felt their voice wasn’t being heard, have been used all over the state, La Plata County officials say. County officials said the regulations are rarely used. Summit County, for example, has used the codes six times in the past couple decades.
Successful examples discussed included when Eagle County, through the use of 1041 Regulations, stopped Colorado Springs from diverting and taking water out of the county and when Chaffee County used the regulations to have greater oversight on a proposed solar farm.
Former Durango City Councilor Dick White said when the city was discussing the possibility of moving the wastewater treatment plant onto county land, the city would not have been required to get a permit from the county. 1041 Regulations change that.
“I think you all should have had a right if the project went that way,” he said.
Commissioners discussed at length the regulations before unanimously adopting seven activities that would fall under a possible 1041 review, including domestic water and sewage treatment systems, major public utility projects, industrial water projects and major highways – to name a few.
Ultimately, commissioners said there had been enough time for public review and input. They said the new regulations will prove to be a benefit to local residents.
“The local voice that county residents get through Board of County Commissioners is one of the most important values that comes with 1041,” Commissioner Julie Westendorff said.