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La Plata County releases second draft of new land-use codes

Public has until Aug. 14 to comment on regulations
Durango Herald file<br><br>La Plata County released a second version of new land-use codes Tuesday. The public has until Aug. 14 to comment.

The second version of La Plata County’s draft land-use code was released Tuesday for public review as county officials eye a final adoption of the revised regulations this fall.

After four years in the making, La Plata County released the first draft of a land-use code overhaul May 11.

Over the past weeks, the first version has received input from La Plata County commissioners, members of the Planning Commission and the public through numerous meetings and opportunities for comment.

The second draft released Tuesday reflects that input, county officials said in a news release.

The public now has the opportunity to comment until Aug. 14 on the second draft of the land-use code.

To comment as well as to view all documents related to the code, visit https://bit.ly/3iEFq5R.

The Planning Commission will review and comment on the new code July 16 and July 23. At those meetings, there will be a public comment period.

La Plata County’s land-use code hasn’t received a serious overhaul since the 1980s, though not for lack of trying: Numerous attempts over the years have run into controversy and failed.

This most recent effort started in early 2016 when commissioners Brad Blake, Gwen Lachelt and Julie Westendorff directed county staff to pursue updating the land-use codes.

Since 2016, the rewrite process has hit several snags. But ultimately, the county believes the codes can be fixed without as major of an overhaul as originally thought.

The main issue, county officials say, is the current codes – known as “performance-based zoning” – require anyone who wants to develop land to go through a costly and time-intensive process to draft engineering studies and building designs.

After all the front-end work, which in some instances can take up to a year and cost prospective developers tens of thousands of dollars, the county then reviews the proposed project to determine if it is a suitable fit for the area – and it could be denied.

The county believes it has solved that problem in the new draft code in two ways.

The first is introducing a “sketch plan review” to evaluate and discuss basic designs, concepts and suitability of a project when it is proposed, effectively flipping compatibility analysis from the back end to the front.

And the second process designates “economic development areas,” which promote commercial, industrial or mixed-use developments in areas pegged for growth, much like Gem Village west of Bayfield is now.

County officials have said they hope to adopt the new codes in September.


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