A joint meeting of the Delta County Commissioners and the Delta County Planning Commission, called in part to discuss the possible need for revisions to the county Master Plan, ended with the appearance that the 1996 document could be headed for a serious second look.
No decisions were made at the meeting held last Thursday, which was attended also by a dozen interested county residents.
But planning commission members who have wrestled with the Master Plan's goals and its role in decision making expressed unhappiness with the document and were supportive of revisions.
Past planning commission chairman Tony Prendergast noted problems over the past three years dealing with "contradictions" in the Master Plan, and particularly with its goals.
The Master Plan was a collaborative writing effort involving people from all areas of the county with different interests and views. As a result, some of the document's final wording is open to differing interpretation when applied to specific land use issues.
For example, how do the goals of protecting private property rights and promoting economic development measure against the goals of preserving rural lifestyles and agriculture when a farmer is ready to retire and sell his land to a developer?
The goals, and the policy strategies for attaining them, in the 14-page-long Master Plan were developed from five community concerns:
• Preservation of agriculture;
• Maintaining the rural lifestyle;
• Requiring new development to pay its own way and be directed to areas with adequate infrastructure;
• Protection of private property rights;
• Economic development.
Another issue discussed at the joint meeting last week is whether Master Plan goals are actually in conflict with other county regulations.
Discussion at the joint meeting was candid. Neither the county commissioners nor planning commission members advocated keeping the current Master Plan in place.
County Administrator Robbie LeValley emphasized that no decision has been made whether to initiate a Master Plan revision. She added that no decision will be made until a citizen lawsuit against the county commissioners is decided in court. The suit is over the BoCC's approval of the Rocky Mountain Layers facility on Powell Mesa.
That lawsuit involves just one of several controversial land use decisions and court cases in recent years that have brought the Master Plan's role into focus. The question is this: Is the Master Plan advisory only, or does it provide prescriptive guidance for basing policy decisions on?
LeValley said that state statute classifies the Master Plan as an advisory and guidance document. But in Delta County, the Master Plan has been allowed to take on a role in policy decision on specific land use matters. For example, the Master Plan is included by reference in the county's specific development regulations and also in the subdivision regulations.
LeValley also said that former county administrator Susan Hansen could be asked to lead the effort for a Master Plan revision. Planning commissioner Roger Bentley suggested the lead position, if created, should be put out to bid. District #2 Commissioner Bruce Hovde said he would support Hansen for such a post. Hansen was county administrator and played a key role in the countywide project to write the 1996 Master Plan that is in use today.
Bentley said that half of the county's Master Plan could be cut out and it would still be an adequate document
Several other planning policy issues came up at the joint meeting last week:
• Planning commission member Mike Twamley suggested the county's Specific Development regulations be "scaled back." Originally written to try and deal with coal bed methane exploration a decade ago, the regs now "control everything that happens in the county," Twamley said.
An example is a welding shop that wanted to move from Grand Junction and set up in an abandoned onion warehouse here. It took 90 days for the company to get specific development approval.
"The specific development review process is out of control," Twamley said.
• The BoCC and commission members reviewed two very visible and controversial recent instances where the BoCC went against recommendations by the planning commission. The county commissioners approved the Rocky Mountain Layers project after a planning commission recommended denial. The BoCC denied an application by M&L Gravel Pit at Crawford after the planners had recommended approval.
• The BoCC and planning commission heard from staff about administrative problems with the county's density standards, part of the county's subdivision regulations. A proposal by planning staff could result in a year-long trial suspension of the standards in certain instances involving simple lot splits having no density impact.blog comments powered by Disqus