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First county land use forum well attended

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Over 50 community members gathered at the Creamery in Hotchkiss Thursday evening, Feb. 28, to hear comments from a panel discussing "Why do land use regulations matter in building community prosperity?"

On the panel were Tate Locke, a member of the Delta County Planning Commission; Sam Kimbriel, a local business owner with decades of development experience; Lynn Tallent, a local developer, "local" including Montrose and Grand Junction; Stacey Voight, representing Delta County Economic Development; and Delta County Commissioner Mike Lane.

Those attending asked their questions and made their comments to the panel members and Elyse Casselberry, the county's community and economic development director, who facilitated the discussion.

Tate noted the difference between the county's revised Master Plan, adopted last year, which sets forth vision and goals, and the land use regulations now being discussed, which will create a set of regulations that define property rights: that is, what an individual can do with his property and what his neighbors do with their property, taking into consideration the impact of each on the other.

Voight said "land use" is defined as what happens to the land itself, but in reality land use is what happens to the occupants as well, as the land and water are occupied and utilized.

She noted that when growth and economic development come together, development will occur where growth can connect to existing services enabling resources to work together. She said land use regulations have a negative impact when regulations are not well thought out and ask property owners to do too much. Think of economic development, but don't ask too much of development. She said, "We need to get that vision now, as we are developing the regulations."

Kimbriel said financing trends, what government is doing and what's going on next door affect the risks a developer is willing to take. There is a piece of property available across from his business, Needle Rock Brewing Company, but he's not willing to take the risk because he does not know what's going to happen next door to that property.

Tallent said Montrose and Montrose County have more complex planning and review, that it is a "well-oiled machine" with better guidelines to follow. He said Delta County is like the wild west. Growth is slow; not a lot of land is being developed in Delta County.

Kimbriel added that Delta County today is like a gigantic homeowners association, a big cooperation of neighbors who get together to protect next door.

Lane said, "I can see that we are moving forward, with over 50 people here tonight who are concerned about Delta County and keeping our lifestyle."

He continued the county commissioners have been told to expect two percent growth a year in the coming years. The number of water taps available will affect, possibly hinder, growth. He noted the county's oversight of roads and infrastructure and the practice of steering development to where infrastructure is in place.

Community members asked questions of Casselberry and the panel members.

The first question: Will the land use regulations affirm that Delta County is a "right to farm" county? Many people present voiced that Delta County should remain a right to farm county. It was emphasized by Casselberry and the panel that "right to farm" must be clearly defined so that all property owners and prospective developers clearly understand the term.

Casselberry was asked to speak to development of mineral rights. She stated that Colorado law addresses mineral rights. Some mineral rights are severed from surface rights; in some cases surface rights and mineral rights are owned by the same property owner. Mineral rights owners have the right to develop the minerals. If development of severed mineral rights is to happen, the surface owner must be notified.

Wendell Koontz asked how existing uses of land would be looked at in the land use regulations process, citing multiple sites being used by individual businesses in the county.

Locke said that he and Lane have been involved in scrutinizing this issue since the beginning of the process.

Larry Wilkening, mayor of Hotchkiss, asked how the zoning around the towns would impact the towns. Casselberry said the growth management agreements the towns have with the county will determine that land use.

The next community forum will be held Wednesday, March 13, at 6 p.m. at the Grand Mesa Arts Center in Cedaredge. It is entitled "Lessons Learned From Our Neighbors."

To learn about community forums and receive updates, sign up for email notification at www.deltacountyplan.com.

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