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La Plata County lays out process for re-writing draft land-use codes

County planners say process will involve public

After the fallout from the first release of La Plata County’s draft land-use codes, and the ensuing demand for a serious re-write, county planners are making sure to take the process slow and involve plenty of public input.

“It would have been very beneficial for us to do this before moving into the code,” said County Manager Joanne Spina. “But we learned from our experience, and we believe this will be a more … understandable way to identify the issues and policies important to the community and draft around those issues.”

Last fall, the La Plata County planning department released draft updated land-use codes in an attempt to modernize the nearly two-decade old regulations.

Almost immediately, the draft codes drew intense push-back from some residents saying they overstepped the county’s authority and infringed on property rights.

A sentiment grew that the county’s contractor to help write the code, Texas-based Kendig Keast Collective, had completely missed the mark. The county has since fired Kendig Keast.

The opposition to the codes reached such a fever pitch that last month the county announced it would put the brakes on the process, vowing to take a more hands-on approach to writing the codes and involving more public input.

On Tuesday, the county’s planning director, Jason Meininger, laid out how this new process is likely to look.

County planners will draft “memos” on major issues. Memos will include an overview of the topic, a comparison with how similar counties deal with it, previous public input and initial staff recommendations.

Once drafted, Meininger said memos will be posted to the planning department’s website and emailed to people signed up to the Community Development newsletter for a two-week period for review and public comment.

Residents can sign up for the news letter at https://bit.ly/2Gylw9g

After that period, county staff will evaluate and include public comments to the memo, which will then be presented to commissioners two weeks prior to a publicly noticed and scheduled work session.

It’s up to county commissioners to ultimately decide and give clear direction to the county planning staff on how to move forward drafting the land-use code.

Spina said to think of the memos as building blocks for draft codes.

“We’re very hopeful this is going to provide a more manageable way for the public to weigh in on policy … even before they see the new draft code,” she said.

County Commissioner Julie Westendorff said: “It would have been nice to have some of this during the process before. Maybe we would have had a better release.”

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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