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During their Tuesday, November 15 regular meeting held at the Buena Vista Community Center, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) aired some simmering frustrations regarding progress on the revision of the county’s Land Use Code, finally ending by extending the current moratorium to their March 7, 2023 meeting.

Voters returned both Keith Baker and Greg Felt to second terms as Chaffee County Commissioners. Photo by Jan Wondra.

The motion made by Commissioner Keith Baker and seconded by Commissioner Rusty Granzella approved Resolution 2022-74, which coincides with the adoption of Land Use Code Module II adoption, expected on March 7. This does not mean that the BoCC was pleased to extend the deadline. Developers and landowners are “chomping at the bit” to submit new land use applications and the pressure is building.

“We need to push out the moratorium a couple months on certain land use applications –last October we set it to end the end of 2021 … so this pushes it to coincide with those subdivision standards,” said Chaffee Asst. Attorney Miles Cottom, who acknowledged valid criticism of the slipping timetable but added “I don’t want to let the timing of these things get in the way of the substance.”

“I disagree with everything here – the complaint from Logan Simpson – every meeting I’ve gone to is last minute this, last minute that – I don’t know what is going on between you, Beth [Helmke], and Logan Simpson – but you and Beth are doing half of their job,” said Granzella. “… I’m truly disappointed in how it is moving forward.”

Cottom reviewed the timetable over the next six weeks, pointing out that the Chaffee Planning Commission reviewed the procedures last week and that public input meetings are coming up in just a couple of weeks.

Helmke pointed out that although the county has been in a moratorium on new applications, “The notion that this has been a true pause is not true. The rush of applications before the moratorium means that the planning department has been very busy on top of working through land-use code revisions. There has been no pause.”

Image courtesy Together Chaffee County Land Use Code Update Project

The BoCC pointed out that it is hard to get public input over the holidays, and that slippage over time is stretching this beyond the schedule the public expects.

When Granzella asked about opening up applications at the end of the year because of demand, Cottom said “We are getting close to a new code -we’ve got a draft … if you open the applications up based on the old code, this is something from the planning department’s perspective we would like to avoid. My concern would be that if we have to take more development applications now, there is less time for the Planning Commission to do its [land use code] job.”

“We extended the Nathrop townsite and the airport moratoriums six times each – so if we don’t have those dates to look at I think it’s just going to drag out – especially going out of this position I don’t want to push it beyond a reasonable say-so of mine,” said Granzella.

“What is the interval if any, between the draft and the public hearings? There is a frustrating element, that now through the new year activities make it harder to get things done,” said Commissioner Greg Felt. “There are focus groups, committees … I know there is a certain tempo to public engagement … I’m reluctant to extend the moratorium to March, but don’t see that we have much choice … to open it prematurely is not much of an option.”

“If you look at it from the beginning of the Land Use Code update in like ’05 – this has been a struggle over the years – there are certain elements of it, like the last Comprehensive Plan update – there were people who purposely tried to gum up the work,” said Baker.”When we ran in 2016 it took two years to overcome the inertia to even start the Comp Plan – then there was COVID. I feel a strong sense of urgency. We said this was a year to 18-month process. I haven’t heard it lately, but people are saying ‘So in a year or 18 months when will we get this done’. Wrong — we have six to eight months max and we need to get it done. We want to turn out a high-quality product so next time we’re starting from a foundation.”

The BoCC discussed the need to address the slipping timeframes. Assured that they would see a draft of Module II by December 30, they agreed that Chair Felt would draft a letter to Logan Simpson, outlining their expectations that that date would be met, that the public input meetings between now and that date would be held on schedule, and sharing their March 7 approval goal of Module II.

“I commit to draft the letter, it will be positive, but it will communicate the pressure we feel, the damage in prolonging this,” said Felt. “I’ll include that December 30 is a firm date that will allow us to meet the March 7 deadline.”