The Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) made progress on a subject dear to the hearts of Chaffee county residents, and which some considered long overdue: first steps on the update of the county’s Land Use Code (LUC). During their Jan. 18 meeting, they accepted a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant helping to fund the update, and approved proceeding with a contract with the engineering firm of Logan and Simpson to proceed with the work, with a completion date in 2023.
The approval process happened in steps. The first step was to accept the $150,000 Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant, as half of the cost of the LUC update.
“It’s a formula – the $150,000 is their contribution toward the budget of $300,000 explained Finance Director Dan Short. “The overall total is reduced (a bit) so the formula is reduced as well.
The second step approved was a letter from the BoCC to DOLA accepting the grant.
It was explained that the original estimate of $400,00 had been brought down to a “not to exceed budge of $300,000”; meaning that DOLA would invest 50 percent of the total cost.
The third step was to review the updated Logan Simpson contract, which had been reviewed and approved by the county legal department. It is based on the firm commencing work with the county as of Jan. 31, 2022. The engineering firm provided a 20-month GANTT flow chart, which includes a breakdown of staff time over at least four iterative and additive LUC models.
“There will be a code modification through the fall of 2023, and some post-adoption deliverables in the winter of 2023; these include staff training, written process, manuals, and a test drive to make sure it [works for us],” explained Public Information Officer Beth Helmke. “Because we asked for a fourth module with additional public outreach, the overall proposal is increased – for a total of $300,000.
County commissioners had questions over whether there was enough time built into the timeline for quality public comment, and about the process.
“I’m looking for checks and balances here, and require the consultant to verify the steps,” said Commissioner Rusty Granzella. “The only way I can see it is in the contract itself, not in the meeting where someone could say ‘you said this’ or ‘I said that.'”
Asst. County Attorney Miles Cottom explained that the modules are related to project phases, with Phase I as the assessment phase and Phases Two through Five representing the development of the four modules, followed by the post-adoption items (such as training, and process documentation). ” In each module, there is a required public hearing,” he said, in answer to BoCC’s question regarding assuring public input.
“On page 17 of the contract there is the timeline,” noted Helmke. “There is an adoption hearing line called out for each module … it’s in the narrative … each module requires a public hearing.”
County Attorney Daniel Tom suggested that the LUC modules be adopted via ordinance, “which means it would have to go through two public comments…. it would be one comment hearing, but depending upon the sections, we’d prepare a full day to hear these.
“Each module is designed to result in a LUC update of a full section,” added Cottom. “Whether one issue or 10 issues, these will go to the Planning Commission (PC) for public hearing, and to the BoCC for a public hearing.”
He added that a number of things have come up in the past few months that might require quicker action in LUC areas. “Perhaps these could be adopted early on, and then added into the entire LUC document…the last phase wherever it ends up, should include the overall statement of LUC.” But, he added that there could certainly be amendments and additions early on in the process.
Tom explained that there is public comment built into the Planning Commission review and the BoCC meetings adding “there are stand-alones, like special events too, that you could adopt that as an early section. We are purposely working in sections, planning to get the sections that are noncontroversial done first.”
Cottom added, “That is the purpose of the phases – so we don’t have to go through hundreds of pages of document all at one time. Each module is going to follow a process. Those meetings will drive what the actual text code recommendation is, based on those meetings, the consultant will take that and draft actual code language. Once the code language is there, there will be a legal review and a working session on that with PC and BoCC. Then the public can comment on the text code’s actual language, and AFTER that in the BoCC and PC meeting hearings.”
There will be a 3:00 p.m. Jan. 31 kickoff meeting with Logan Simpson for the BoCC to raise questions, clarify concerns, discuss the recommended framework for the process, and the community involvement. Every other week meetings are built-in to the timeline, as are quarterly work sessions with the BoCC and potentially the planning commission.
“It looks like there is a good opportunity for the public, the advisory committee, to engage. The framework is there for a successful process. It is iterative, we (or they) may learn things from that to adapt for the subsequent ones,” said BoCC Chair Greg Felt. “I think this looks great, but as the board responsible for adopting this, we can’t rely on the formal meetings listed here as adequate for us to feel like we know this was conducted correctly. We have to participate in the process. We are all going to have to make time with these public engagement sessions and the community advisory meetings, to make sure that Logan Simpson understands our community and develops a product acceptable to our community.”
“We’ve got to participate – if there is something we don’t like, we have to tell them,” agreed Commissioner Keith Baker. “Planning should be an ongoing process rather than these huge lifts every 20 or so years. By the time this is done, and we adopt LUC 2023 — by then some early things will be almost two years old – then begins a time-phases review — to have them on a schedule, to block out review of the modules, and the process starts over, rather than waiting. This keeps the overall expense down.”
The BoCC brought up workforce housing (also known as affordable housing) as an example of something that isn’t in the LUC now, but reference to it could be added in for ideas like square footage limits for short term rentals, or bonuses for dedicating lots to the housing authority for instance. The theme of ensuring workforce housing could weave through the document.
Granzella made the motion to accept the DOLA grant, seconded by Baker. Baker moved to send the letter to DOLA accepting the grant, which Granzella seconded. Granzella moved to approve the Logan Simpson contract with a not-to-exceed budget of $300,000, which Baker seconded. All motions passed unanimously.
“The big picture is this is a $300,000 project with a lot of key elements and how we’ll coordinate with the Planning Commission and staff is spelled out, said BoCC Chair Greg Felt. “The big elements of this have been laid out pretty well – it’s up to all of us to participate to fill in the blanks and make sure there is accountable action.