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Planning professional shares critical facts at land use forum

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At the fourth land use community forum April 25, planning professional Don Elliott of Clarion Associates spoke to those attending about elements of planning that are absolute and which determine what can be done with one's property.

Delta County Planning Commission members and county commissioners were present, along with community members.

Elyse Casselberry, county community and economic development director, told the attendees that this fourth land use community forum is the last. The Board of County Commissioners will discuss with the consultant team and county staff the information gained from the community forums and a concept plan will be developed by June.

That concept will be discussed with the community and comments gathered during several meetings in the summer. The process will be wrapped up in the fall.

Don Elliott, from Denver and head of his firm, explained that "plans" are advisory and guide decisions, while "zoning" refers to regulations. Planning includes acceptable incentives for things you could do to solve all problems; zoning tells you what you may do on your property.

Most regulations wind up being too flexible, Elliott said. Zoning tells the market what it gets to do.

Many property owners misunderstand the term "vested right," he said. Vested right is common law. If the property is burned or abandoned, the vested right no longer exists. The owner may rebuild under the established zoning. If he abandons the property, the vested right was abandoned also.

"Angry people are not regulations," Elliot said. One side's "scientific study" may compete with the other side's "scientific study," but the zoning remains the same.

Zoning defines the reasonable economic use of the property.

"Grandfathered in" is non-conforming use.

Elliott said local governments figure out the level of strictness they want to have and that "gives them the bullets in their gun." The language in the code makes clear what the government does not want. Most local governments have as much government as they want, he said.

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