The county adopted its first zoning regulations, which doubled as a master plan, on Aug. 23, 1971. The BOCC had set a date of Sept. 7 to adopt the regulations and had requested public comment be submitted until that date, but at a planning commission meeting on Aug. 23, county commissioners, who were in attendance, decided to just adopt the regulations then and there.
Some of the purposes of the code, as stated therein, were "promoting the health, safety, morals and general welfare of present and future inhabitants...by lessening congestion in the streets and roads; securing safety from fire...preventing the overcrowding of land; avoiding undue concentration of population; ...and protecting urban and rural development." Also, it was enacted "with a view to conserving the values of natural resources for the general welfare and encouraging the most appropriate uses of land."
The regulations, prepared by Colorado Division of Planning for the BOCC, divided the county into four zones: Alpine, Valley, Foothills and Flood Plain. The latter was deleted and 'Residential' was added in 1976, applying to lots contiguous to Ridgway or Ouray). Interestingly, the document recognized that Foothills and Valley zones were not distinct, but intermingled.
For the first time, the county was controlling density and distribution of population. Some uses were allowed by right, some by permission that had to be granted upon fulfilling certain conditions and some that may or may not be granted, but with conditions if granted. Subdivisions had to go through a two-step approval process and had to leave 25 percent of the land to open space.
In 1982, amendments to the zoning regulations changed density in the Valley Zone from a limit of one building on 40 acres to 35 acres. In the Foothills Zone, it changed from 20 acres to five acres with approved sewage and disinfection facilities. It also made clear that delineation of property as Foothills or Valley would be made by the county. Property was presumptively Foothills but could be Valley if it was irrigated before August 1971 and capable of raising an irrigated crop.
In 1985, OCPC adopted the first master plan, which included a section on "Visual Impact Considerations." According to state law, only planning commissions can adopt master plans. OCPC recognized that new tourism and recreational activities, as well as development pressures, called for updated land use regulations. After conducting a public survey and holding public meetings, OCPC adopted the master plan and BOCC enacted the Land Use Code.
The plan designated three zones instead of four: Alpine, Foothills and Valley. Commercial development would be encouraged to locate in the municipalities, with the Foothills being the second choice. The Valley Zone, historically agricultural and irrigated, was to have low density housing, protecting its agrarian nature, while Foothills could have higher density. The plan for the "environmentally fragile" Alpine Zone was to continue to allow uses by right—mining and agriculture—and low density residential use; commercial recreational uses would be allowed under a planned unit development (PUD).
Land use regulations would implement the plan, and the BOCC started discussing such regulations in late 1985. At an OCPC meeting, planning commissioners Kircher and Hay expressed the opinion that all single family dwellings should be subject to the proposed VIR. County Attorney Rich Tisdel said the regulations were written so they could be enforced through PUD covenants, taking the burden off the county.
OCPC members Peter Decker, Carolyn Kircher, Bob Middleton, John Hay and Bob Larson presented the BOCC with a proposed code. County Commissioner Kenneth Williams objected to the proposal, contending it should apply to all structures in the county and not just those along view corridors and in planned unit developments or on special use permits.
The land use code adopted on Mar. 4, 1986, included Section 9 Visual Impact Regulations (VIR) that applied to structures built under special use permits (i.e., not a use by right) and structures in PUDs. Section 9 established as view corridors Highways 550 and 62, County Road 1 from CR 1A to CR 24 and County Roads 5, 7, 8, 10, 24 and 24A. Skyline breakage regulations would not apply to homes more than 1.5 miles or fewer than 1,320 feet from the centerline of a designated roadway. The also would not apply unless the structure broke the skyline when viewed within a window described as an arc from nearest point to the road centerline, out for a 1.5 mile radius.
Mitigating factors could be natural vegetation or landscaping. Screening was required, structures had to be at least 100 feet from the designated roadways and they could not be made of reflective materials. The code encouraged concealed down lighting and use of colors that blended with the surroundings.
Prior to adoption of the code, County Commissioners Howard Williams, David Calhoon and Kenneth Williams took public comment in several sessions. Much of the discussion concerned building in the Alpine Zone and regulation of mobile homes.
The BOCC also heard now-familiar complaints about requiring screening of structures, rebuilds having to conform to new regulations and discrimination because the VIR in the code would not apply to the entire county, in addition to opposition to the requirement that building permit applicants pay for survey work to determine viewing windows.
One speaker referred to Hitler's authority over the people and questioned county commissioners' morality. Others said the economic viability of the county depends on the scenery and the public good must be weighed against private rights. Questionnaires sent out by the BOCC and returned showed most people wanted VIR, according to the BOCC. In reply to a question about projected growth and whether the regulations were really needed, Commissioner Howard Williams told the meeting they were trying to regulate so any development would be an asset to the county.
County commissioners in 1971 were Dave Calhoon, Howard Williams and Warren Comerer. From the 1971 Ouray County Zoning Regulations:
"The area encompassed by Ouray County is a quiet land of awesome beauty, even today nearly untouched and unspoiled by a man's hand...The population is at a low density, with most of the county economy based on mining, ranching or other agrarian pursuits...Ouray County is now becoming known to people from all areas as a winter and summer recreation area. New development will eventually bring increasing amounts of money and people into the County...In face of such potential popularity, how can the unique environment for living, including the delicate natural environment, be protected? How can the County accommodate the inevitable development pressures, without letting these pressures negate or even destroy the unique and irreplaceable qualities that attracted them in the first place?"