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Changes to county planning commission to be discussed

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The Delta County Commissioners have been in the process of revamping the makeup of the Delta County Planning Commission since early 2017, with the goal of balancing representation from across the county.

Also, for several years there has been discussion about eliminating the Area Planning Committees (APC), which were established for the same goal -- balancing representation in planning matters across the county. There was difficulty in finding interested participants for APCs in all the planning areas, which resulted in lack of quorums, burden on participants, and administrative challenges to adequately staff meetings.

There was increased liability for the county in ensuring compliance with open meetings requirements and increased risk for ex parte communication.

In May the Delta County Planning Commission (PC) discussed the idea of eliminating the APCs and expanding the PC to include "associate members," as permitted by Colorado State Statute. Associate members would participate in the discussion of all matters coming before the PC, but would not vote, except in the absence of a PC member.

The PC believes including associate membership is an opportunity to continue the effort to broaden and balance representation across the county.

County community and economic development director Elyse Casselberry met with Commissioners Doug Atchley, Mark Roeber and Don Suppes earlier this month to discuss the implications of eliminating the APCs.

Elimination of the Area Planning Committees would require amending the county's specific development regulations and the county's subdivision regulations. It will also require a public hearing with both the PC and the county commissioners.

Casselberry said there are only three APC members with current terms: Arlie Clark, 2019; Bob Pennetta, 2019; and Steve Wolcott, 2020. All other terms have expired and no new appointments have been made.

Casselberry said, "It's important to note that municipal participation on the APCs is one way in which the county has heightened coordination with each municipality. We should evaluate the referral and coordination processes in place with each municipality to ensure we have continued coordination."

The Planning Commission must include not fewer than three members and not more than nine members, according to state statute. In 2017 the commissioners expanded the Planning Commission to a nine-member board, with the desired makeup of the PC to include three members from each of the three commissioner districts.

Regarding the appointment of associate members, the statute states specifically "each of whom shall be a resident of the county, and, in the event any regular member is temporarily unable to act owing to absence from the county, illness, interest in any matter before the commission, or any other cause, his place may be taken during such temporary disability by an associate member designated for that purpose."

Further expansion of the PC to include associate members, while helping to achieve broader representation from across the county, would also afford the opportunity for succession planning.

Membership on the PC is a challenging and difficult task. The addition of associate members would make it easier to train potential future planning commissioners. Associate members would not be guaranteed an appointment to the PC in the event of a vacancy, but, should an associate member be appointed to the PC, he or she would be able to be a fully productive participant from day one.

The commissioners are also looking at the best method to stagger terms, so one term expires from each of the three districts each year.

Casselberry said staff recommends adjusting terms all at once to minimize future confusion. This could occur in January 2019 when current terms expire.

In addition, staff is recommending the PC approve and adopt its own bylaws, as outlined in state statutes. Currently, the bylaws are approved by the BoCC.

The Board of County Commissioners, Planning Commission and planning staff will meet to discuss these issues the afternoon of Oct. 17. The time and location have not yet been determined.

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Commissioners, Planning Commission
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