That the adoption of the revised Land Use Development Code has been further delayed is not a cause for concern. Sometimes, it is more important to get something right than simply to get it done. The revised code is one such example.
The delay is the result of the city’s consultant’s decision to change jobs. Todd Messenger resigned from the Denver firm Kendig Keast Collaborative to take a position elsewhere. These things happen.
What it means for the city is the public hearing originally set for this month – with a vote possible later this summer – will be delayed until the fall. And that is not a bad thing.
It is a fact of human nature, regularly bemoaned by officials and editorial writers alike, that too often people do not pay attention to an unfolding process until it is all but complete. The city can hold any number of meetings and hearings on some development only to be barraged with questions when the bulldozers are fired up. Understanding that, the longer we all have to learn about what is in the LUDC revisions, the better.
There is also the idea that hearings in the summer months would likely be even less well attended than those in other seasons. The fact is that spending time with friends and family enjoying the outdoors in beautiful Southwest Colorado, instead of sitting through hearings about land use, is an entirely rational decision. In any case, what with summer sports, yard care, travel and family vacations, it is unlikely such hearings would be well attended.
But they should be. Since the Land Use and Development Code was adopted in 1989, it has been repeatedly amended. But in the words of the website www.durangocodeupdate.com, it will now be “reorganized, updated, and rewritten to ensure that it is reflective of community plans and values, easy to use, and consistent with the City Charter and applicable state and federal laws.”
All of which sounds lovely, but means only that the code will be changed. And with that comes the almost certain result that in some ways Durango will change. Whether those changes would be things city residents like is another question – one they themselves need to answer.
The two most obvious examples would be the possible proliferation of auxiliary dwelling units – also known as mother-in-law flats – and vacation rentals. Both ideas are controversial, and as such neither should be approved nor denied on a blanket basis. Neighborhoods vary, and preserving the character of each is a stated goal of the city’s process and an idea strongly supported by city residents.
All of that argues for more public input predicated on a greater degree of public understanding of exactly what is being proposed. And while the city’s goal of having this process completed as soon as possible is understandable – the original idea was to have it done by April – the fact is that doing it right will take time.
The creators of the website referenced above do a good job of laying out the complexities of the new LUDC. But they presume a certain amount of pre-existing knowledge of planning and zoning. How many city residents know, for example, the city’s official designation for their neighborhood – EN-1, EN-2, RM, RH?
What might be helpful would be a way for city residents to see clearly what changes would be in store for their neighborhood without having to immerse themselves in the full details of the proposed new code. Perhaps an interactive map?
But no matter how the city chooses to involve more residents, more time can only be helpful.