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The Chaffee  Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) meeting for November 7 began at 9:00 a.m. November 7, 2023 and the regular agenda included three public hearings.

After approving a proclamation honoring those who have served in the Armed Forces in recognition of the upcoming Nov. 11 Veterans Day, and supporting Operation Green Light for Veterans  – intended to shine green lights for Veteran’s Day, they reviewed and approved contracts.

Among the contracts approved:

  • Approval of a Western Star 49X semi tractor purchase for Road & Bridge Department at the cost of $176,701 under buyback program.
  • Approval of a one-year contract extension for Colorado Standard, LLC (Scott Peterson) as the Marketing Director of the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau. The last time the county approved a contract (multi-year) was in the fall of 2020, and since that time county voters approved a reallocation of the lodging tax. Doing a one-year extension will allow the county to evaluate the impacts and needs.
  • Approval of Contract for District Attorney’s Office remodel project, to configure space on U.S. 50 into the DA’s office space (their current space in the Chaffee Administration Building is needed for county staff.)
  • A contract agreement with Fairfield & Woods, considered the development-legal entity who developed Colorado’s land use code standards, for professional and legal services related to the completion of the county’s land use code update.

The $110,000 contract  with Fairfield & Woods will replace the county’s current contract with Logan and Simpson, completing the LUC rewrite within the original budget parameters, with an additional fee per public meeting ($1.600 for online meetings and $3,200 for in-person public meetings).

” I think it’s a good move, I support it,” said Commissioner Greg Felt, who made the motion to approve the engagement with Fairfield & Woods and finalize the contract.

Public Comment for Consideration of Adoption of the 2021 Building Codes with Chaffee County Amendments

The list of public hearings on the agenda included a review of several 2021-standards building codes. While Chaffee County has been operating its building standards according to building codes from several years ago (the latest upgrade was to the 2015 codes), the State of Colorado has now mandated that every county must enforce 2021 building standards. This public session is the “first pass” at updating the county’s codes to meet this requirement, but it won’t be the only opportunity for the public to review and comment.

The codes include:

  • 2021 International Building Code
  • 2021 International Residential Code
  • 2021 International Fire Code
  • 2021 International Fuel Gas Code
  • 2021 International Mechanical Code
  • 2021 International Plumbing Code
  • 2021 International Energy Conservation Code
  • 2021 International Existing Building Code
  • 2021 International Property Maintenance Code
  • 2021 International Swimming Pool & Spa Code
  • 2021 International Wildlife Urban Interface Code
  • Colorado Model Electric Ready & Solar Ready Code

Those reviewing the meeting packets will see that anything marked in blue is a new code adjustment from the 2021 code adoption.

The highlights:

  • 2021 International Building Code – changed text to clear language to refer to the codes the way the county references the codes.
  • The building department recommends deleting a section of the code about annual permits and records. This section was targeted for the construction of big structures such as the hospital, allowing them to pull one permit for an entire year for all work. Building and Planning now wants to oversee individual permits for specific work.
  • The county recommends adding a change for workforce housing size exemptions for work permits. It has seen instances of people living in sheds which are not habitable spaces.
  • The county will track buildings in which cars are stored, becuase there are important fire arrangements for garages.
  • Adding a section on sleeping rooms/or potential bedrooms, is recommended: rooms that could be used for sleeping as a habitable space – have a closet, an emergency escape (egress window) and smoke alarm.
  • The county has an existing Chaffee county snowload zone map for buildings that it plans to keep.
  • The building department is recommending that buildings be built to withstand 115 MPH winds (last year it changed it to 120 MPH and this caused issues).
  • The county plans to become stricter on informing contractors of the need for demolition permits, especially for asbestos or lead-based paint.
  • There is now state-level legislation requiring people who live in the urban-wildland interface to mitigate for wildfires and maintain defensible space.

The challenge: counties are basically relying on the homeowners to say – ‘yes we have defensible space’, but this is not how other building codes, such as electric codes, are enforced.

“My particular concern is the risk of wildfire here is too great not to do this. We have to figure out a way to support the building department and bring in someone in the county to serve as a repository for this information,” said Planning Director Miles Cottom. “We have to make a specific investment in this to help true up the language on the Land Use Code that this is what they have to do on the front end and the back end. We have to make sure we’re not leaving it up to somebody and then not enforcing it. There are individual properties, but this is a community risk.”

Several members of the public spoke during public comment, most of them in favor of the county immediately adopting the electric preferred code now, and then adopting the electric required amendments to this code by November, 2024, and a few reminding the BoCC of the impacts of climate change that are already beginning to impact the Rocky Mountains.

Dave Armstrong asked three questions, saying he didn’t expect answers immediately, but wants the BoCC to consider these questions:

  1. Does the demolition code permit an opportunity to talk about recycling?
  2. As land use needs and codes and uses evolve, are there opportunities to stop doing some things – to free up resources?
  3. What is the county’s concern about whether or not addressing the wildland-urban interface could have an impact on insurance rates.

Commissioner Keith Baker noted that he’d recently heard a FEMA official speaking about defense against wildfire, adding “he said the first line of defense is good zoning and a good Land Use Code. This is a web of defense — as we will see insurance costs go up – we already have homeowners who are dealing with this.”

Public Hearing To Consider Land Use Code Text Amendments From Module 2

While the rewrites of Chapters Four and Five of the Land Use Code had been on the agenda (continued from September 5, 2023 and October 10, 2023), it was decided to close public testimony and Felt made a motion to continue the topic to December 5, 2023.

Public Hearing to Consider Adjustment to Chaffee County Landfill Fees Structure and Amounts

In this public hearing, which continued from October 10, 2023, the BoCC reviewed the proposal first presented at the October 3 session, representing a detailed analysis of the landfill fees charged in surrounding counties. The last time Chaffee made changes to its landfill fees was 2021 when it adopted a +$1/ton increase.

It was pointed out that about 30 percent of the waste going into the landfill is demolition waste.

Chaffee County staff recommended a phased increase in fees of five percent per year for five years, beginning January 1, 2024. There was no public comment, and the recommended fee adjustment was adopted unanimously.

The agenda item titled “Consider Request for Acceptance of Major Subdivision Application During Temporary Moratorium in Consideration of Resolutions 2022-41 and 2022-74,” from applicant Joe Cooper was again continued at the applicant’s request to January 9, 2023.

Next on the agenda was a public hearing on a Land Use Code Text Amendment – Accessory Dwelling Unit Workforce Housing Density Exemption (Continued from October 3, 2023).

While listed as a separate agenda item, the BoCC decided to close this public hearing session and table the topic indefinitely, while folding the topic into the larger Land Use Code amendment work.

In other business, the BoCC approved Resolution 2023-104, the partnership with Colorado Mountain College in Applying for and Distributing the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) Matching Funds and Scholarship 2023-24 Allocation.

The BoCC unanimously approved (with Commissioner P.T. Wood excusing himself) a multi-year request for a special event permit for the Christmas Mountain Run. The five-mile running race occurs mostly in Salida, with some travel on county roads through the Franz Lake area, up by the golf course, and back to Riverside Park.

Featured image: The Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners, for 2023. Left to right, Chair Keith Baker, P.T. Wood and Greg Felt. Photo by Jan Wondra.

Editor’s Note: the Aristata service outage affected Ark Valley Voice news stories yesterday afternoon, when the service went out intermittently, and final drafts of at least two news stories, including this one, were not saved. This allowed typos from verbatim meeting coverage (fast typing that can often contain spelling errors) to appear in print. We apologize for this lapse.