County comprehensive plan update proposed to cap and direct growth |

County comprehensive plan update proposed to cap and direct growth

Christine McManus

SUMMIT COUNTY – A growth cap and a program to funnel allowed growth into build-up areas are being proposed in an update of the county’s Countywide Comprehensive Plan.

The comprehensive plan is a guiding document for land use in each of the county’s four basins, which also have their specific plans.

The update calls for a cap on development density in the county and the expansion of a transferable development rights (TDR) program now operating in the Upper Blue Basin to the Snake, Lower Blue and Ten Mile basins.

The new TDR plan, which would still have to be enacted by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), would allow property owners to transfer development rights among all four basins.

Currently, property owners who have development rights in the Upper Blue backcountry can sell TDRs for projects in Breckenridge.

In the Upper Blue Basin TDR program, one development right worth $34,000 is worth one residence or 1,000 square feet of commercial space. The county has started a TDR bank to hold development rights it has purchased or been given.

The other big change in the update is a proposed density cap. If the plan passes as is, upzonings would only be allowed in two circumstances. Unless a developer’s project has affordable housing, or he bought transferred development rights, he could not ask for rezonings to build more densely.

The Countywide Comprehensive Plan is being updated for the first time since 1994.

Back then, 14,000 people lived in unincorporated areas of the county year-round. Now nearly 65 percent of a population of about 25,000 people live in unincorporated Summit County. An additional 20,000 full-time residents are expected to move to county residences by 2025, according to state estimates. The county might reach build out as early as 2015, planners said, depending on the local and national economies.

The population estimates do not include second homeowners. Many are baby boomers on the verge of retirement.

Critics of rapid growth in the late 1990s said the county comprehensive plans had no teeth. The plans are guidelines, not enforceable by law, but are incorporated by law into evaluating land-use applications.

In Summit County, parts of the plan will be enforceable by incorporation into the county code.

The BOCC plans to adopt any of the “proposed mandatory provisions” listed in the updated comp plan. There are about a dozen proposed ordinances in the update.

Summit County’s comprehensive plan is not exactly toothless, said Long Range Planning Manager Mark Truckey, because planners threaten to recommend denial of projects that do not meet all of the comp plan guidelines.

“It’s not like we’ve denied hundreds of applications. We tell developers to come back with a revision that works,” Truckey said. “Plus, there are basin plans, sub-basin plans and even neighborhood plans that also must be followed.”

One criticism of the comprehensive plan update is that some believe it will take away local control in the four basins. Each has its own plan and a planning commission to review local land-use applications.

Truckey said the belief that local control would be lost is mistaken. The update plucks out countywide policies that were redundant in the recent basin plan updates and puts them in a countywide forum, Truckey said.

One factor that would change plans in unincorporated areas is annexations by the towns.

If towns decide to extend their existing boundaries for rezonings and developments, the county would have little say in development permitted by the towns. The update suggests the towns work with the county.

The public can still influence the proposed update of the county’s land use guidelines for unincorporated areas.

Residents and property owners are invited to an open house from 5-6 p.m. on Monday at the Buffalo Mountain Room in the County Commons near Frisco and Breckenridge. At 6 p.m., the Countywide Planning Commission will take public comments on the updated plan.

The full update can be viewed online at Click on “Current Issues” and select “Draft Countywide Comprehensive Plan.”

The 10 sections of the update focus on land use, environment, transportation, housing, community and public facilities, design and visual resources, historic and cultural resources, open space, recreation and trails and economic sustainability.

The update has been in the works since May 2002. There will be at least one more hearing in November before the planning commission votes whether to recommend adoption to the BOCC. Action by the BOCC makes it final.

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