Raucous audience addresses Planning Commission

Last night’s Planning Commission (PC) agenda was simple: Consider changes to the certified 2022 Land Use Code Update relating to lot size variation and discuss public comments made during a recent County Commissioner meeting.

The PC never got to a discussion on lot size variation but rather spent more than four hours hearing from 100-plus residents who attended, in-person and virtually, mostly to complain about government overreach and regulation, and a perceived loss of personal freedoms. Many of those attending told PC members that they are new to the area and had “fled” from places like Boulder and Crested Butte.

“The world is being gentrified,” shouted one speaker to the applause of the crowd. Another suggested it could be considered unsanitary to “poop” inside a home and the county needed creative ways to expand the use of outhouses and composting toilets, both public health issues regulated by the state.

At times, meeting attendees devolved into personal insults, attacks and accusations of grifting on the part of PC members. These comments were the first to be addressed by Chairman Tom Kay and other commissioners once public comment had been closed.

“We’re volunteers trying to help our community,” said Kay.

“It’s 8:00pm. I’d rather be picking up my kid, but instead, I’m here with you,” said member Tate Locke.

“I don’t take money I didn’t earn through my own hard work,” said member Layne Brones.

The existence of Land Use Code seemed to come as a surprise to some who attended despite it having been years in the making. Others couldn’t understand why the code needed revising so soon after its original adoption in 2021. While concerns varied, one issue seemed clear: The county needs to do a better job of noticing meetings and other goings on in county government.

A handful of attendees had specific comments concerning the code updates, which had already been certified by the PC in November 2022 after a year of work sessions and public meetings. Terminology seemed to be a major sticking point after language in the code had been changed from “Allowed, with a Zoning Permit” to “Permitted Use, with a Zoning Permit.” Many readers of the code had interrupted the word “permitted” as a noun rather than a verb — to give authorization or consent to someone to do something — as was the PC’s intent explained Chairman Kay. PC members vowed to clarify that language.

Another specific complaint centered around the definition of a home business. Two speakers expressed worry that the county would limit their ability to do business on their land. PC members had sought to clarify the differences between a home office and a “cottage business” being run as an augmentation to a residential property in the code update. When the Planning Commissioners were finally able to discuss the issue, they acknowledged the importance of this type of use in Delta County but grappled with specifics. One PC member worried about liability for both the county and the business owner where ADA accessibility was concerned if the business had clients or customers coming directly to the home business. Other members worried about traffic impacts and whether that factor should be the driving force behind the definition.

After more than five exhaustive hours, the PC decided to table their discussions but continue at their next planned meeting on Jan. 25.

Major code changes include:

  • Changing the Urban Growth Area (UGA) zoning designation to an overlay to apply where higher density and/or mixed-use development can occur.
  • Adding Residential 2.5-acre (RES-2.5) and Residential 1.0-acre (RES-1.0) designation to apply where a smaller lot subdivision is appropriate.
  • Deleting the Variation to Lot Size process and criteria.
  • Clarifying terminology and process for division of land.
  • Clarifying Allowed Uses versus Permitted Uses and incorporating the procedural requirement of the Development Application Ordinance.
  • Establishing standards for Renewable Energy Facilities.
  • Establishing standards for Wireless Communication Facilities.READ THE FULL SUMMARY OF CHANGES