City urged to speed up work on land code

Councilors vow not to leave task to successors

Durango officials defended themselves against accusations Wednesday that they have been procrastinating on a big project, writing a new land-use development code.

Daniel Money, an architectural designer, said projects are not going forward because of the uncertainty about development guidelines.

“I think the biggest uncertainty we have in this town is the code and the fact that it’s been hanging out there for years. For the City Council, the Planning Commission, it does not feel like it’s a priority,” he said during a council study session with the planning commissioners and a citizens advisory board for the project.

“Really, I had a conversation with a friend who wants to do something, (but) now they’re changing the code,” Money said.

The new code is supposed to be “a little bit easier to get through what you want to do. It should happen this summer, this fall, maybe next year.

“‘Well, (now) I don’t know (when it will be done),’” the friend told Money.

“Boy, that’s a killer,” Money said.

Greg Hoch, the planning director, said the project has been delayed by cuts in staffing as the result of the recession. The city has also had several other big development projects, such as Mercury Village, the Crader annexation and La Posta Road.

In October, a meeting on the proposed code was postponed because of a campaign appearance here by first lady Michelle Obama.

The goal is to complete the new land-use development code by April. The adoption of the code could very well be the last action of the current City Council during its last meeting on April 16 before newly elected councilors are sworn in.

“We have a deadline, which is a City Council election in April,” Councilor Dick White said. “We don’t want to throw two to three new city councilors into this process; that’s why we are committed to lots and lots of meetings over the next four months to get it done. We understand.”

A workshop that is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. today at Durango Community Recreation Center will go over new proposals for landscaping and protecting environmentally sensitive lands.

Suggested changes to the code are also getting posted online at durangocodeupdate.com for public feedback.

The city has several challenges ahead, such as how to provide new regulations for accessory dwelling units, or mother-in-law apartments, while also figuring out how to make current structures comply with the proposed standards.

Some architects told the city not to let perfection get in the way of completing the project or worry about anticipating every situation in the new code.

Money also gave the city some encouragement because he thinks the new regulations on accessory dwellings will help a lot of people “in a positive way,” such as providing for more housing and income for the landlords.

“I’m here to give you a giant ‘yes,’” Money said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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