The Ouary Board of County Commissioners has scheduled a public hearing at 6 p.m. in the 4-H Center to consider adopting a revised version of Section 9 - Visual Impact Regulation of the County Land Use Code.
After three or four work sessions with the BOCC, the Planning Staff rewrote Section 9 and presented it to the Ouray Planning Commission in October 2014. The Planning Commission had only one month to study and comment on the proposed revisions. Their deliberations were constrained by the BOCC's instructions that the Planning Commission could only make minor wording corrections and recommend sections of the regulations that the BOCC should review.
This abbreviated process did not allow the traditional pattern where the Planning Commission has time to solicit public input and to consider the various points of view of the seven Planning Commission members who were appointed by the BOCC to represent diverse public opinions on land use regulations.
The product of this abbreviated process is a Section 9 that does not meet the BOCC's own mandate to reduce the subjectivity in applying visual impact regulations and has the potential to allow structures to compete for the viewer’s attention with the spectacular natural environment of Ouray County.
The proposed point system, which is the central focus of Section 9, needs to be reworked. The number of points available for five categories (distance to a designated road, blending, visibility, screening and parcel location in a Planned Unit Development or on a conforming lot) is inconsistent and arbitrary within and between categories, and the required number of points can be accumulated by ignoring most of the categories. This point system also fosters unintended consequences that jeopardize the goal of establishing clear and measurable regulations that minimize the visual impact of structures in Ouray County.
These revisions are not ready to be adopted in their present form. Section 9 should be returned to the Planning Commission for considered study, additional public input and to allow the Planning Commission to fulfill its mandate to generate reasoned regulations that foster strong guidelines for current development that can be met and applied consistently. Reworking Section 9 and strengthening the point system would allow the Land Use Code of Ouray County to remain relevant when future development pressures become a reality.
For the past four years I have regularly attended Planning Commission meetings and work sessions. Based on that experience, I urge residents who want to preserve the scenic beauty, rural setting and the dominating influence of the natural environment of Ouray County to attend the public hearing on Dec. 10 at the 4-H Center and make their voices heard.