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Clyde Church: County considers land use code for adoption

For almost three years, the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners and county staff have been working to develop and adopt a new land-use code that makes the development process more predictable and streamlined for both applicants and staff. Now, after the Planning Commission voted July 23 to recommend the draft code to the BOCC for approval, we are within reach of a critical milestone for La Plata County.

Version 1 of the draft land-use code was released for public review and input on May 11, and from there county staff began a series of workshops to introduce the code to the community and get feedback and input.

These 12 sessions were accompanied by joint Planning Commission and BOCC work sessions to discuss the code and give staff additional direction in refining it. We also held listening sessions with the two boards to take public comment.

From all of this input, including the many emails and comments submitted via our online portal, staff revised the code and distributed Version 2 on July 6 for more input and comments. The Planning Commission then held two meetings to take more public comment and discuss and take action on the code.

We will now take the Planning Commission’s recommendations and any additional public comment we receive into consideration as we review and consider the code for adoption.

We really do want to hear from you and have worked hard to offer a range of ways to weigh in on the code.

In 2020 alone, there have already been 27 public meetings on the code. This began with the Table of Contents release in January and the public meetings our staff conducted throughout the county to present that “sneak preview” of the code.

Since then, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have shifted to offer public meetings on Zoom – however, as soon as we had guidance to safely allow citizens back into the board room, we began doing so.

Starting in late June, the public has been able to attend meetings in person at the County Administration Building, though we do have to limit the number of people in the room to maintain social distancing. Most folks seem to prefer the online option, though – at the last Planning Commission meeting on the code, there were about 25 people on the Zoom meeting and just two in the board room.

We will continue to offer both online and in-person options as we move forward with BOCC action on the code.

Please keep commenting using newcode@co.laplata.co.us and through the Draft Land Use Code comment portal: bit.ly/LUC_comment_portal.

We want to get this code right, and your input is critical to doing so. Between versions 1 and 2, staff made hundreds of changes based on public input as well as direction from the BOCC and Planning Commission. We know there will be further refinement as we hear more from you, either in writing or at the BOCC public hearings on Aug. 4 and Aug. 11.

We are holding two sessions on each of those dates – 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. – so that we can accommodate as many people’s schedules as possible.

It is important to each of us commissioners that you all have an opportunity to comment on the code as we move toward culminating this momentous effort.

At the beginning, the BOCC established clear goals for the project:

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 processArticulate clear development standards.Streamline the development process.Protect and respect the county’s most valued assets.Minimize sprawl.Staff has done an exceptional job in drafting a document that achieves these goals, and you all have provided critical input that is helping ensure that the new La Plata County land-use code serves this community well as we grow over the next decade.

Please keep your good ideas coming!

Visit the New Land Use Code Project Page at bit.ly/landusecode for a complete schedule, background documents and more.

Clyde Church is chairman of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners. Reach him at (970) 382-6219.

Nov 29, 2021
After yearslong effort, La Plata County inks new land-use code
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