Proposed laws address county growth issues
SUMMIT COUNTY – Thirteen proposed county development code changes would give teeth to the newly updated Countywide Comprehensive Plan, which will bring density caps and transferrable development rights (TDR) as growth control tools across the county.
The comprehensive plan provides guidelines for land use and planning countywide. Each planning basin, the Snake, Lower Blue, Upper Blue and Ten Mile, has basin-specific plans.
What the new countywide plan does is cull common elements from the basin plans for consideration across the board. Chief among these are the density cap and TDR program already in place in the Upper Blue.
As the proposed update sails along with more public praise than criticism, Summit County commissioners are starting to review the 13 laws suggested in the plan.
Out of 119 pages of the revised comprehensive plan, less than one page, total, is proposed as law. The remainder is guidelines planners would use to weigh the merits of developers’ proposals.
The commissioners will vote whether to approve the suggested 13 laws after they and the countywide planning commission approve the update.
The proposed laws address wetlands issues, pedestrian-friendly development, the four basins’ land-use maps, communications towers, building placement, utility location and several other development requirements. The laws are combined into the following categories.
If a property facing development has wetlands, the building location and construction crews would have to avoid the wetlands. If avoidance is impossible, the property owner would have to create more wetlands elsewhere the same size and effectiveness of the wetlands ruined.
Wetlands purify water flowing down mountains into streams, provide wildlife habitat, prevent flooding and prevent erosion, among other benefits.
Developers in unincorporated parts of the county generally would not be able to ask for upzonings, or increased density, if commissioners pass this proposed law.
In other words, if current zoning allows six units per acre, no more than six units per acre could be built. Developers sometimes ask for upzonings.
Developers would only be able to build more densely if they are building affordable housing, or if they buy development rights from someone who has property where development is discouraged, such as in the backcountry. Affordable housing would be defined and would be sold at deed-restricted, below-market rates for lower-income workers in the county.
If planning commissioners approve the update, and commissioners pass this suggested law, basins would have to identify areas where they want density and areas they do not want any development. This would make cross-basin transfers of development rights easier to implement.
By marking “sending areas” of basins, such as backcountry areas, landowners would be encouraged to sell their development rights. By marking “receiving areas” on maps, developers would be encouraged to buy those development rights.
In the Upper Blue Basin, one development right worth $34,000 is worth one residence or 1,000 square feet of commercial development. The county has talked about possibly forming a development rights “bank,” acting as a broker between sellers and buyers.
New development would have to be pedestrian-friendly. People who use the development would have to have access to a bus stop on site or connections to a commercial district.
Whenever possible, towers that transmit cellular phone signals or radio signals would have to be hidden from view or designed to blend in with the environment.
Map urban areas
The basins would have to designate on maps where urban areas begin and end. Urban areas would include the areas where public sewer and water lines exist and where areas are already zoned for higher densities of businesses and homes.
Map rural areas
The basins would have to designate on maps where rural areas begin and end. Rural areas would include places where public sewer and water do not exist. Rural areas would also include backcountry, agricultural land, places with good views and environmentally sensitive areas.
Utilities would have to install phone lines, gas lines, cable lines, etc. in the same corridors, unless it’s logistically impossible. Cell phone companies would have to share cell towers.
New building location, construction
County planners would require developers to plan exactly where buildings would sit. Once plans are approved for a house or building, planners also would require construction crews to only dig up or traverse minimal amounts of the property.
An update of the countywide plan has been in the works since May 2002. The next, and possibly last, opportunity for public input will be Nov. 3 at the Countywide Planning Commission hearing in the Buffalo Mountain Room at the County Commons.
The rest of the guidelines in the update are separated into 10 sections. The proposed sections guide county policy on land use, the environment, transportation, housing, community and public facilities, design/visual resources, historic/cultural resources, open space, recreation/trails and economic sustainability.
To look at the proposed update, visit http://www.co.summit.us. Click on “Current Issues” and select “Draft Countywide Comprehensive Plan.” Contact County Planner Mark Truckey at (970) 668-4211 or firstname.lastname@example.org with comments.
To view the Countywide Comprehensive Plan go to http://www.co.summit.us and click on “Current Issues” then select “Draft Countywide Comprehensive Plan.”
Also, contact County Planner Mark Truckey at (970) 668-4211 or email@example.com.
Christine McManus can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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