Comments from the La Plata County Land Use Code Hearing | La Plata County Fairgrounds

Local First is a non-profit alliance of locally-owned, independent businesses and organizations working together to build an economy that values people, the planet, and prosperity for everyone.

We currently represent 250 local, independent businesses in La Plata County.

On behalf of these businesses, I would like to thank the County for embarking on this land use code revision. It has been over 30 years since we revised the land use code, and it is time to update some of the provisions in the current code that are costly to local business and do not support economic development.

We support the stated goals of the LUC revision, including:

  • Increased predictability and consistency for property owners and applicants, including businesses,
  • Supporting economic development and diversity,
  • Sustaining agricultural production and uses, and
  • Generating or improving options for affordable housing

We would also like to add the goal of maintaining our quality of life, as this is a central tenet of the Local First business community. We love to live and do business in La Plata County because of our incredible natural resources and outdoor environment.

Revisions to the LPC LUC should not be overly prescriptive, but rather allow landowners, especially agricultural landowners, to have flexibility in current and future use, along with a fair appeals process to allow for relatively speedy exemptions and change of use requests.

Overall, the business community would like a more consistent, affordable, and predictable process. The zoning proposed in the new LUC has the potential to provide this type of process because it identifies an expanded list of land uses that will be available BY RIGHT to property owners.

E.g., under the current process, business owners have to spend, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars, before permits are issued by the county with no certainty on the allowable uses in their proposed location.

Under the proposed revised land use code with zoning, the use conditions would be know ahead of time at that location and be able to estimate costs that allow them to judge if it is worthwhile to proceed or not. Based upon this ‘zoned’ use, the business owner could proceed with a permit and the County would inspect and ensure compliance as the project proceeds. The owner would know that as long as they met certain conditions, or correct any problems, they can use the property accordingly.

In terms of public input and process – while the County has done a good job of requesting public input, it will take time to ensure a variety of voices are heard and incorporated into the process. For this reason, we would encourage the county to extend the deadline beyond January 26th another 14-30 days.

In closing, the land use code is an important guiding mechanism for the County and we have been, and will continue to be, a positive, proactive partner with the County in this important endeavor.  We also intend to provide more specific wording and policy recommendations on the code via e-mail by the deadline. Thank you for your efforts.