First come, first served |

First come, first served

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Tempers begin to flare and decisions are made a little more quickly as the clock edges closer to midnight during Breckenridge planning commission meetings.

So, under a new process town planners have proposed, planners will be permitted to take extra time – up to six weeks – to review and prepare Class A and B permit applications. Class A permits include larger projects, such as condominiums and hotels; Class B permits typically include projects in the historic district.

Under the new proposal, planning commission meetings also will be limited to five hours – to midnight – planner Christie Mathews-Leidal wrote in a memo to the planning commission.

The issues will be discussed at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled town council work session.

“We just can’t churn out detailed staff reports and analyses; some things are slipping through the cracks,” Mathews-Leidal said. “We want to get cleaner projects to the commission, not have things we overlooked come up on the floor.”

Application hearings already are being scheduled for as late as Sept. 10.

Mathews-Leidal said planners will try to schedule simple hearings, such as condo plats, for earlier dates. The process to obtain Class C permits, which include single-family homes, and Class D permits, approved over the counter for such things as signs, and requests to repaint buildings and other minor improvements, will not change.

But developers aren’t keen on the proposal, saying delays can cause them to lose a building season.

“That’s a devastating thing when you’re trying to build a house,” said Scott Daniels of Daniels Construction and Design in Breckenridge. “You’re carrying the land costs, the taxes, and you’re not able to get it into a profitable mode. It raises the cost of living for everyone. Every hurdle they impose is another cost to the consumer.”

Architect Matt Stais said the process takes that long anyway.

“Good design takes that long, too,” he said. “But if that’s what they need to do to structure their workload to do their jobs, it might be a good thing. I see nothing wrong with the system the way it is.”

Currently, the process requires an applicant to supply drawings and other materials no later than 9 a.m. on the 22nd day before the next planning commission meeting. The director then determines if the application is complete; if it is, the item is put on the commission agenda.

Mathews-Leidal suggested the wording be changed to read “next available commission meeting” and that the 21-day/three-week process be revised to a six-week process.

“Due to the bimonthly commission meeting schedule and the complexity and amount of projects, it’s difficult to review a set of plans ahead of time, meet with the applicant and request revisions, re-review the plans and write a report for every other Friday’s packet,” Mathews-Leidal said. The time crunch is exacerbated further by demands for site inspections, code enforcement, policy revisions and council projects.

The proposed six-week schedule also would be more consistent with planning processes used in Aspen, Vail and Steamboat Springs. The process in Fort Collins can take up to 12 weeks. County, Frisco and Silverthorne planners typically need 45 days to get a Planned Unit Development or single- or multi-family development project to the planning and zoning board.

No other jurisdictions review large projects in 15 days as Breckenridge does, Mathews-Leidal noted.

“The average is six to eight weeks, and for complicated development projects, could require several more weeks,” she wrote in the memo. “Since we control when we put an item on the planning commission agenda, our cycle can fluctuate, but if we want to set specific deadlines points in the cycle, a reasonable length for the time frame that still meets the due process requirement would be about 45 days.”

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