Community members began arriving early for the first open house to review the Delta County Master Plan on Monday, April 9, at Heritage Hall in Hotchkiss.
Stations were set up around the room with posters providing information on different elements of the Master Plan, along with enlarged maps from the plan.
Participants were given a packet of information relating to the Master Plan as they arrived, organized for their use in recording thoughts, comments and recommendations as they reviewed the posters and maps.
County staff, planning commission members and members of area planning committees were available for one-on-one, or group, discussions as participants reviewed the information.
The open house convened from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
About 6 p.m. a slide presentation on the elements of the Master Plan was presented by Elyse Casselberry, community and economic development director for the county.
Casselberry stated some challenges the county is facing, which made it necessary for the county to undertake and prepare this Master Plan update of the 1997 Master Plan.
Casselberry noted that the Colorado state demographer has projected an average growth rate of 2 percent per year over a 30-year period for Delta County, which will require providing for 11,000 additional people.
Delta County has one of the highest poverty rates in the state, a problem with housing supply and quality of housing, and a declining property tax base. Since 2007 the county has shown a decline in jobs.
The planning commission has spent a year addressing these challenges, and others, to provide a framework to manage land use and development and problematic situations that arise.
After the slide presentation, members of the planning commission introduced themselves and answered questions from the residents. Members present were Bob Stechert, chair; Angela Mackey, vice chair; Kim Shay, Tony Prendergast, Steve Shea and Steve Schrock.
Richard Rudin asked, "How will you achieve enforcement of any of this?"
Kim Shay replied that developing a process to do so will require research, and money will have to be found to pay for it.
Bob Stechert added that the Master Plan is the beginning of the process. When land use regulations are adopted, enforcement will be a central issue. As development comes, it must pay its own way. Regulations will establish the way for development to pay its way, and enforcement will be a part of that process.
Elisa Greco, area planning committee member, related two questions asked of her during the first part of the meeting: how will "hazard" be defined, and what are the cross-hatched marks on the municipal maps.
Casselberry said problems related to hazards are covered in detail in the "Hazard Mitigation Plan." The cross-hatched areas denote urban growth areas, which have been identified by each municipality in that municipality's master plan.
Rudin asked if growth would be limited in hazard areas. An RPI Consulting member replied that risks would be mitigated before growth could occur: mitigate risk or limit development.
A question was asked about protecting areas that are agricultural now from becoming a target for growth. Tony Prendergast replied that we should incentivize landowners to hold on to their agricultural land and to not designate it as a conservation area.
Steve Schrock said that was also a question for the towns because their growth policies control some of those areas.
Casselberry added that municipalities are permitted to control land use by annexation; counties cannot annex. "The towns will control their areas as development occurs. We can eliminate conflict through coordination with the towns," she added.
Andrew Forkes-Gudmunson asked how agricultural land that interfaces with other land uses will be dealt with. Stechert replied that all land uses will be considered as the Planning Commission goes forward to identify the uses.
Wendell Koontz asked how the Master Plan characterizes commercial business. Stechert said the planning vommission is not there yet, has not inventoried and identified other land uses yet, having identified only residential and agricultural in the Master Plan.
Consultant Gabe Preston added that the county assessor know where these parcels are because she is required to assess property for its correct use. The map shows scattered uses, but currently there is no rhyme or reason to identify uses. It will have to be case by case over a long period of time. Businesses need an answer to "Where can I do this?" Now the answer is "nowhere" or "anywhere." It is a question that has to be addressed.
Stechert said, "We are trying to get the Master Plan in place so that a process can be established to determine where and what kind of land use regulations will be appropriate across the county."
Casselberry added that the future land use regulations should enable the property owner and neighbor to engage in conversation, to engage the minds of those affected, including neighbors.
An open house was held Tuesday, April 10, at Orchard City Town Hall.
The third and last open house will be held Wednesday, April 11, at Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta.
A public hearing prior to the adoption of the Master Plan will be held in May, the last opportunity for public input before the Master Plan is adopted.
The county is requesting feedback from residents. The Master Plan is available on the county's website, www.deltacountyplan.com for those who want to review the Master Plan. Those who don't attend one of the open houses are requested to submit feedback either in the online community forum on the project website or by an email sent directly to email@example.com. Comments are welcomed by U.S. Mail, Delta County Courthouse, 501 Palmer Street, Suite 115; Delta, CO 81416-1796.
Comments will be collected through April 25.