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Proposed land use regulation changes stir ire

Improper noticing and concerns from commissioners and audience members led to the tabling of action on select, proposed Land Use Regulations (LUR) at the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners’ special meeting Nov. 23.

While action on one item was tabled and should be heard at a January BoCC regular meeting agenda, the commissioners approved the passage of two other agenda items changing the LUR.

The first, passed with no questions and no public comment, were Land Use Code amendments concerning Conceptual Development Plans, General Development Plans and review processes.

Director of County Development Rick Bellis indicated the changes adopt temporary language instituted earlier in the year and make the regulations more consistent with state law, and “more defensible.”

The changes also give the Archuleta County Planning Commission a vote in development agreements, Bellis said in a phone interview, and allow for large-scale mixed use.

Also passed at the meeting was an increase in the limit on one-story sheds to 180 square feet or less, from the previous limit of 120.

The increase is due to “more and more people buying prefabricated” sheds for their property, Bellis said.

With regard to the tabled item, the meeting was noticed to include changes in sections three, four and 11 of the LUR, but notice was not made concerning proposed changes to sections one and two, which were then presented to the BoCC.

Improper notice was not the only concern about the item.

A portion of the proposed changes, pertaining to a move limiting RV use on a property to 180 days under a Temporary Use Permit (TUP), while a building permit is in effect, drew discussion and questions by commissioners and audience members.

Commissioner Clifford Lucero called for the element in the proposed changes concerning RVs to be thrown out.

“I’d like to pull that one and just eliminate it,” he said.

Bellis characterized the change as an attempt to define and limit RV use, focused primarily on areas in the county with few or no covenants and restrictions, and where people have purchased land for recreational purposes, although it is zoned as residential.

“We do have residents that built houses and invested a considerable sum of money who do not appreciate people living in a bus or emptying their waste outside or even camping on the property, “ said Bellis, “and they feel that it should be forced as residential.

“On the other hand, we have people that say these are undersized lots; they were always used, as far as they know, for recreational purposes, they bought them for recreational purposes,” Bellis said in presenting the proposed changes to the BoCC.

Commissioner John Ranson shared Lucero’s concern on the topic.

“The people I have visited with definitely are using it (their lot) for recreational purposes and just for a period of time, and, to me, the problems we’re trying to tackle don’t seem to be those people,” Ranson said. “It’s the people that may have the bus and are living there year-round.”

Lucero mentioned hearing that some residents buy properties for recreation. “I think for us to try to take that away is just wrong,” he said, adding that he is “completely against it ... there’s a lot to look at in this resolution — a lot more than meets the eye.”

The combination of lack of notice and discussion on the topic of the RVs led the commissioners to agree to table action on the entire item, versus only the improperly noticed sections.

Despite the tabling, audience member Michael Howell asked that public comment be allowed so the BoCC could hear more from people affected by the possible changes.

Comments from Howell, Debra Brown and Robbie Schwartz centered on the concern that too many regulations were being put in place.

“We need to be cautious that we don’t just keep regulating,” Howell said.

Brown, who owns land in Arboles which she uses for recreation and RVs, indicated that she is “concerned at how overregulated we’re getting.”

Schwartz, an area resident with a second property and home in Arboles, mentioned her frustration in seeing new regulations, but added that the area “needs to be cleaned up.”

Though the RV portion caused the most concern, the tabled item deals with more than just RV regulations.

The proposed LUR amendments were described by Bellis in an interview as a “series of technical corrections to the Land Use Code.”

“It’s fine-tuning the Land Use Code so it’s easier to understand,” he said.

In addition to the proposed TUP amendments concerning RVs, the changes would include:

• Definitions of structures, carports and temporary canopies amended, as well as an addition to the definitions of outdoor storage and setback and of definitions of temporary storage containers.

• Language to be added to the Planned Unit Development section pertaining to state statutes.

Bellis stated that the language would be added in order to be consistent with the Land Use Code amendments passed later in the meeting.

• An addition to the PUD section of a clarification of when zoning takes effect and that rezoning “shall apply only to the development tract or parcel or portion thereof which is the subject of the Final Plat approval unless otherwise agreed to by the landowner and the Board of County Commissioners through a Development Agreement.”

Bellis mentioned that the change would clarify the process when dealing with multi phase projects.

• An addition to section three of conditions in which temporary storage containers can be used, as well as temporary canopies.

• The amendments would also include the ability for planning staff to grant an administrative variance when it would be “unduly cumbersome for them (citizens) to go through review process,” Bellis said.

• Under accessory uses and structures, it would be added that “An accessory use shall only be allowed subsequent to a principle (or primary) use being established” and that “A greenhouse or hothouse may be maintained accessory to a dwelling only if there are no sales from the premises.”

• Also to be added: accessory structures are listed to include, but are not limited to, sheds, canopies, carports and garages and accessory structures, which must comply with Planning department requirements and permits, can only be built concurrently with or following the building of a primary structure.

• Changes concerning fees for Concept Plans, Development Plans and Development Agreements are also proposed in addition to Home Occupation — Use By Right and Minor Variance Process fees.

The BoCC intends to revisit the tabled items during a January BoCC regular meeting.

By press time Wednesday, it was unclear if the controversial proposed changes would go back to the planning commission before January.

randi@pagosasun.com