The new year is off and running and at La Plata County, that means a new chairperson of the Board of County Commissioners. Julie Westendorff passed the gavel to me in January, and now I have the honor of writing monthly columns to keep you informed of the latest county happenings.
This year, our top priority is to adopt a new land-use code and the Board of County Commissioners, Planning Commission and staff will be investing a lot of time in this effort, bringing the conversation to the community throughout the process.
We have spent the last two years listening to citizens’ concerns and input regarding the land-use code – both what is not working with our current code and what people want to see in the new set of regulations that govern development in unincorporated La Plata County.
We have heard loud and clear that the county’s land-use approval process makes development difficult because applicants often have to spend significant time and money to bring a proposed project through the Planning Department, Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners, without any certainty that the project will be approved.
This is because today’s code determines whether a project is compatible with surrounding uses at the end of the application process, rather than at the beginning. That is one of the main things we want to fix in the new code.
The goals for the new code are, specifically, to:
Reconcile and clarify the codeProvide for predictability and improved certainty of the process and outcomesFacilitate and direct growth to appropriate areasImprove the review processArticulate clear development standardsStreamline the development processProtect and respect the county’s most valued assetsMinimize sprawlStaff is busy writing a code that will achieve these goals, and we now have a draft table of contents that shows what will be in the new code – and where to find it.
Starting this month, staff and Planning Commission members will be holding a series of workshops in the community to go over the table of contents, and see what questions folks may have about how the new code will be structured. These sessions are aimed to get people in the community familiar with what the document will look like, so that when the draft new code is released for public comment, there is already background context.
Meanwhile, the Board of County Commissioners and the Planning Commission will be holding a series of joint work sessions to discuss some of the policy topics that staff needs direction on for drafting the code.
We had the first of these meetings on Jan. 30 when we went through the outreach and engagement plan – which includes the table of contents workshops, and will shift to a series of facilitated meetings when the draft code is released for public review.
Our next joint work session is from 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 20, and we will discuss road standards and level of service for roads.
On March 26, we will meet to discuss neighborhood protection standards and the concept of registered district advisory committees, which is a concept that came up during the district plan update process.
We think it is important to have these joint meetings with the Planning Commission so that we are all on the same page as we work through the important policy discussions related to the code, and we are eager to hear the questions and input that comes up in the community about the draft table of contents and the draft code when it is released.
This is a big effort and we are all rolling up our sleeves to get it done and get it right. Please stay tuned for meeting schedules and input options as the code rewrite process unfolds. The best way to stay informed is to subscribe to the Community Development Services newsletter – a monthly email that covers all things planning-related in La Plata County. By signing up at eepurl.com/cmyrdb, you will also receive code-specific alerts about upcoming meetings and events.
We are excited about the opportunity to adopt a land-use code that serves our community more effectively than the regulations we have now. We need to be able to effectively respond to our growing and changing community, bolster and diversify economic development, and make the land-use review process more predictable.
I hope you will get involved in the effort.
Clyde Church is chairman of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners. Reach him at 382-6219.