Planning Commission approves LPS changes

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— Whether golf courses count as open space in Routt County's land preservation subdivision process will be decided by the Board of County Commissioners this summer.

In a 6-0 vote, county planning commissioners recommended at their meeting this week that the board approve revised regulations for land preservation subdivision, or LPS.

The county adopted LPS regulations in 1995 to give options to landowners tempted to divide their property into 35-acre ranchettes. LPS requires clustering of homesites, creating a large contiguous remainder parcel rather than a group of 35-acre tracts.

The remainder parcel is supposed to preserve open space, protect wildlife habitat and ensure agriculture remains a viable land use.

Planning commissioners couldn't reach consensus on Thursday about whether the county should limit commercial uses, such as golf courses and gravel pits, on remainder parcels.

"I do not think a golf course is open space," Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.

Planning Director Ellen Hresiding over her last Planning Commission meeting before she starts a new job May 5, urged the panel to keep the LPS regulations flexible.

"If we'd had this requirement in, we wouldn't have gotten rid of the ski area at Catamount in exchange for a golf course," Hid of the proposed limitation on commercial remainder parcels.

The Planning Commission decided to recommend approval of the revised regulations as proposed -- with the limit on commercial uses -- and let the Board of County Commissioners choose whether to keep the restriction.

Planning commissioners have wrestled with how to craft regulations that won't discourage LPS development.

In January, Arieh Szigeti tried unsuccessfully to develop 526 acres near Spring Creek Canyon as an LPS project, but received a recommendation for denial from HHid the project had problems with wildlife, visual impacts, infrastructure and geologic hazards.

Planning Commission Chairman Troy Brookshire said the LPS regulations should give options to landowners.

"I want to ensure this doesn't become such an animal that it prevents people from using it so they use 35-acre development instead," Brookshire said.

For example, instead of telling developers they "must avoid" dividing irrigated lands with roads or fences, the Planning Commission recommended the regulations say "to the extent practicable," development should avoid those things.

Another word used frequently in the revised rules is "minimize." Instead of being ordered to "reduce the cumulative impact of development on adjacent rural properties," developers are urged to minimize the impact.

County Planner Chad Phillips said the revisions also should create an easier process for developers to follow, with consolidated dates for deadlines and a new amendment process.

As it stands now, an LPS approval is final. Under the revisions, a developer can make changes if, for example, he realizes he needs to change the location of a building envelope a year after approval.

A date has not yet been set for the Board of County Commissioners to review the Planning Commission's recommendations. Phillips said the hearing should happen in the next two months.


-- To reach Michelle Bales call 871-4208 or e-mail mbales@amigo.net

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