Now that we have celebrated Memorial Day, summer has unofficially arrived here in La Plata County and with it comes the official kickoff for public review and input on the draft Land Use Code we released to the community earlier this month.
We are so excited about this new code and eager for your help in refining it as we move toward adopting the code later this year. It is the product of more than two and a half years of public input and discussion to give our staff direction on how to meet the goals we established at the beginning of the effort:
Reconcile and clarify the land-use code.Provide for predictability and improved certainty of the process and outcomes.Facilitate and direct growth to appropriate areas.Improve the review process.Articulate clear development standards.Streamline the development process.Protect and respect the county’s most valued assets.Minimize sprawl.The draft code meets these goals. One of the most exciting aspects of the draft code is that it significantly tightens up the development review process, adding many land uses to the administrative category, which means an applicant can receive a permit without having to go through the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners for approval. The draft code also shortens the time frame for reviewing projects, saving applicants time – which means money – in the process.
But the biggest change to the process is that compatibility review – which currently comes at the end of what is often a long and costly effort to conduct all the required studies for a potential project to prove water, sewer, access and other critical elements – will now happen up front. This is a major improvement and will save applicants from having to spend lots of time and money only to possibly be denied at the end of the process because the project was found to not be compatible with the neighborhood.
Another concept we are excited about is the AgPlus category of land uses that are allowed by right – no land-use permit required – on agricultural land. This will allow folks with agriculture operations to expand and diversify how they use their land without a lengthy and costly review. This was a need we heard loud and clear from the community.
We want to hear more from the community and to do so, staff is beginning with a series of workshops to present the concepts in the code and gather your input. We are also hosting a series of joint Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioner work sessions to discuss the draft code and refine it as we move toward adoption. Unfortunately, because of public health risks related to COVID-19, we are unable to conduct those meetings in person right now. However, the Zoom platform allows folks to participate remotely – either by computer or phone – and we have had good success conducting public meetings this way. If we are able to safely introduce in-person meetings as the process unfolds, we will certainly do so. In the meantime, there are many ways to offer your input – including at the workshops, through a dedicated email – firstname.lastname@example.org – and through the Draft Land Use Code comment portal: bit.ly/LUC_comment_portal. Please visit the New Land Use Code Project Page at bit.ly/landusecode for a complete schedule, background documents and more.
We have a lot of work ahead of us – the Board of County Commissioners, Planning Commission, county staff and the community. Getting this code right will be our Planning staff’s primary focus over the next few months, and applicants may see slow processing times as a result. We hope you understand and ask for your patience as we all work together to get La Plata County a land-use code that works for our community. We are eager for your input and involvement!
Clyde Church is chairman of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners. Reach him at 382-6219.