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County wraps up Master Plan open houses

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The Delta County Planning Commission concluded a series of open houses focusing on the Master Plan update. Commission members took feedback from the community at an open house in Orchard City April 10, and at an open house in Delta April 11.

The first of three open houses, held in Hotchkiss in April 9, was reported in the April 11 DCI.

Land use is the major focus of the Master Plan. Its adoption will provide for future land use regulations to meet a primary challenge of growth. The Colorado demographer has projected a 2 percent annual growth rate over a 30-year period, which forecasts 11,000 additional people moving to Delta County.

Other challenges requiring solutions are the county's high level of poverty, inadequate housing and a declining property tax base. Since 2007 the county has shown a decline in jobs.

At the Orchard City meeting, Dick Gilmore asked about the core values in the Master Plan.

Planning commission member Steve Schrock cited preservation of agriculture and ag sustainability above all.

Bob Stechert, chair of the planning commission, pointed out that the current Master Plan is an update of the 1997 plan. The goal is for the 2018 Master Plan to be a living document, with the planning commission reviewing it yearly, with input from the community.

"This is a wonderful area we live in. Sometimes our neighbors' activities differ from ours and the Master Plan provides opportunities for us to strike a balance among competing interests. It provides better ways to resolve problems at the front end and adopt regulations that will not be overly burdensome. When someone comes to the county with a proposal for development, that person will know in advance what he or she can and cannot do," Stechert said.

Ken Richards asked how the roles set out in the Master Plan would correlate with the core values.

Planning commission member Tate Locke replied that the strategies laid out in the Master Plan address the public comments the planning commission has received over the past year.

Stechert referred Richards and others present to the posters on the wall which addressed agriculture, availability of water, economic development, developing jobs and other issues. "We want our children to stay in Delta County and that requires that we have a balance between economic development and the lifestyle we have now."

Les Mergelman expressed appreciation for the Master Plan and said it is headed toward planning and zoning to maintain agriculture, the culture built around agriculture and the future growth of agriculture. He urged those attending to look hard at the Master Plan and get behind it.

Hard copies of the Master Plan are available at all Delta County libraries. It can also be found on the county's website, www.deltacountyplan.com.

At the open house in Delta, Steve Schrock, planning commission member and a former city manager of Delta, expressed his disappointment at the small turnout and encouraged city residents to inform themselves about the Master Plan.

Schrock said, "The Master Plan matters to the municipalities. What is set out in the Master Plan affects tax base, housing, incomes county wide, land use, incorporation. The larger parts of the Master plan include matters affecting all of the county. Talk to your neighbors about it."

Tom Gore said, "You say the Master Plan is not about regulation, but regulation is on every slide you have shown."

Stechert replied, "The Master Plan doesn't create regulations, it envisions the need to change regulations. The current specific development regulations are not working well. The Master Plan provides guidelines for establishing regulations for people who want to develop in Delta County. There is not now a policy in place, and that needs to happen."

Russ Zick from Lakewood said he was thinking of relocating to Delta County. He asked if the Master Plan were modeled on a planning document from some other county in Colorado.

Stechert said the planning commission looked at plans from Mesa and Montrose counties, but started with the Delta County 1997 Master Plan, which had not been updated or amended. The 2018 draft was based on input from across the county and from many sources.

Planning commission vice chair Angela Mackey added, "We have worked with the consulting team from RPI Consulting also.

"Zoning is necessary; we can't have change by default. Broadband, the wave of the future, is coming to Delta County. We want Delta County to stay kind of the same but to be prosperous and respectful to all. We commit to being part of that change. If we don't define it, someone else will."

A public hearing on the Master Plan will be held May 9 at Delta High School, and will be the last opportunity for input before adoption. Written and oral comments are welcome.

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