Warrior’s Mark likely to get a zoning district of its own
BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge town officials will create a new Land Use District (LUD) for the Warrior’s Mark neighborhood so homes there will better conform to town land use guidelines and building standards.
Voters in the neighborhood approved an annexation proposal Tuesday that will incorporate Warrior’s Mark and Warrior’s Mark West into the town of Breckenridge. The town council now must pass an ordinance approving the annexation. The town then has 90 days in which to zone the neighborhood.
Originally, town planners thought Land Use District 30 was the most appropriate district in which to zone the subdivisions. That district allows single-family residences, duplexes to eight-plexes, condominiums and townhomes – all of which exist there today.
Town officials don’t expect to find many nonconforming uses in the neighborhood, said town planner Laurie Best, who will develop an LUD to reflect what’s in the neighborhood.
A nonconforming use is defined as a use that isn’t permitted in a zoned area. An example would be a gas station in the center of a residential area or a restaurant in an area zoned for manufacturing.
Many times, noncomplying uses are created over time, as neighborhoods and zonings change. Nonconforming uses reduce the effectiveness of a zoning ordinance, depress property values and create blight, Town Attorney Tim Berry wrote in a memo to commissioners.
Many municipalities have ordinances addressing how to bring nonconforming buildings into compliance. Breckenridge’s code, which Berry is updating, says that if a nonconforming use is discontinued from use for six months, it must be brought into compliance before it can be used again.
Municipalities also can bring nonconforming uses into compliance through amortization, requiring them to change the use over a set period of time to allow owners to get a reasonable return on investments.
Breckenridge has used the time element to make property owners change things as town codes change. For example, a Dumpster ordinance passed in 1996 gave people four years to bring their trash bins into compliance with the new codes.
Best said she didn’t expect to find many, if any, nonconforming uses in Warrior’s Mark, but many residences are in violation of town standards, notably height restrictions, minimum setbacks and densities.
Berry is drafting an ordinance that will mimic more closely the county standards by which the neighborhood currently abides so homes won’t automatically be in violation of town codes when they are zoned.
Town ordinances addressing nonconforming structures are confusing, Berry said.
One section says a nonconforming building that is destroyed may not be reconstructed unless the cost of the reconstruction does not exceed 50 percent of the replacement cost of the building.
“That’s just one of the things I’m trying to clear up in this ordinance,” Berry said. “I believe the intent of the ordinance is that, if a building is more than 50 percent destroyed, it’s getting closer to a total wipeout and should be rebuilt as a conforming use.”
Such was the case with the American Grill, which was destroyed in a fire.
The insurance company wanted to rebuild the structure, but town building officials said that, since more than 50 percent of the building was destroyed, it could not be repaired. A new structure, housing ReMax real estate offices, was built – to the latest town codes and standards – in its place.
“If there’s nothing left of a building but ashes, it makes sense to tell the landowner to build the new building in conformance,” Berry said. “But it’s a harder line to draw if the building is only partially destroyed. We don’t have that concept built into our ordinances. We’ve got to get that written down.”
Town officials use the ordinance for remodel proposals as well, such as for the Salt Creek Restaurant. The restaurant doesn’t conform to town standards because of its excessive height and insufficient setbacks. But the town council approved a major remodel because less than 50 percent of the structure was being renovated.
Planning Commissioner Ken Boos said he wondered if town officials should have authorized the remodel.
“It’s hard to believe they were doing less than 50 percent of the building,” he said. “I’m not sure the community was well served by that continued use of that nonconformity.”
The Warrior’s Mark annexation ballot question brought the issue to a head again. Commissioners agreed other properties that don’t conform to standards – notably Val D’Isere and Ptarmigan condominiums – also should be considered, as they are aging and owners eventually might present remodel plans to the town.
“We want to be careful we don’t chase off remodels or improvements by requiring conformity,” Berry cautioned. “They could say, “Nah, we’ll just put a new coat of paint on it.'”
That almost happened at a historic home in Breckenridge, when the owners requested a permit to improve the deck. Town officials asked them to make a variety of improvements to the house at the same time, and the owners almost abandoned the project altogether.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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