Ouray County commissioners Don Batchelder, Lynn Padgett and Mike Fedel, left to right, discuss the details of section 9 Wednesday night at the 4-H Events Center. Photo by Bill Tiedje.
By Beecher Threatt
In a much-anticipated decision on changing county visual impact regulations, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday night to hold work sessions with county land use staff starting in early 2014. The sessions will concentrate on fixing specific parts of section 9, both current and proposed, and on adopting parts of the proposed section 9 that are beneficial.
Making the motion that commissioners and staff tackle section 9, Commissioner Don Batchelder addressed members of the Ouray County Planning Commission, saying, "The planning commission was given a difficult and daunting task. You did exactly what you were asked to do. You have been treated like sacrificial lambs by some in the community and for that I apologize."
About 40 members of the public showed up as commissioners began deliberations on the planning commission's overhaul of section 9. For about two hours, commissioners asked questions of land use staff and the county attorney, clarifying provisions in the current land use code and asking how the proposed changes would affect their workload and decision-making.
Board Chair Mike Fedel asked County Attorney Marti Whitmore about rebuilding structures that are currently conforming but would become non-conforming under the new regulations. She answered that the rebuilding provision in the proposal would not be a variance because it would be written into the code.
Many of the commissioners' questions were answered by County Planner Mark Castrodale that the visual impact regulations are subjective, in both the current code and the proposal, and any close calls on visual impact in building permit applications would be taken to the county commissioners. Batchelder and Commissioner Lynn Padgett expressed the opinion that section 9 could be made less subjective.
Batchelder pointed out anomalies in the current code that were carried over into the proposal. Those should be fixed before the new provisions are adopted, he said.
He cited specifically, among others, the agricultural exemption only if a structure is used "exclusively" for ag; difficulties in measuring fence heights for compliance with exemptions; subdivisions built prior to 1972, in regard to an exemption clause in the proposal; and, discrepancies in referring to other sections of the land use code.
"I came to the conclusion this proposal would rely heavily on the variance procedure, and that is not good for the county," Batchelder said.
Padgett presented a list of specific provisions in the proposed section 9 that members of the public addressed during the public comment period in August. She suggested solutions to some of the issues Batchelder raised.
"The public comment highlighted some things in the proposal that are unworkable but are not unsolvable," Padgett said. She also suggested ways to fix problems such as structures that would become non-conforming and the provision on blending.
At one point, Fedel stated that expanding the number of roads subject to VIR was not likely to happen. Padgett suggested identifying primary and secondary corridors, with primary ones being those with the most economic benefit.
Padgett also pointed out the proposed expansion of roads increased private acreage subject to VIR by only 17 percent. Her suggestion of identifying the most significant views and protecting those would increase private land subject to VIR by just 10 percent.
Asked his impression of the decision that commissioners will work with staff, Castrodale said he was pleased and it was a good solution to an issue that has divided the county.
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