No uncertain terms

County officials to discuss skyline regulations

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— The Routt County Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners will hold a joint work session tonight on restricting new development on ridges in the county.

Among the topics to be discussed are guidelines vs. regulations and the definition of "mitigate."

The meeting between the county boards is the third joint meeting to discuss a skyline regulation to protect views of ridges from development in the Yampa Valley.

The issue was first presented in January in response to public comment in past area plan meetings supporting the protection of scenic corridors and ridge lines. County planners introduced a proposal to restrict building permits for houses being built in the skyline as seen from certain roads determined as a scenic route.

The routes include U.S. 40, Colorado 131, Colo. 134 and 46 percent of the county road system.

A map is on display at the county planning department showing about 4,500 properties that could fall under a skyline regulation.

If the landowner has no other place

except the skyline

to build, the landowner would have to mitigate for visual impact.

Tonight's meeting is a follow-up to the previous sessions, said Routt County Assistant Planning Director Chad Phillips.

The first public meeting on the issue was Feb. 1. It was dominated by two hours of passionate public comment.

Public comment against the new regulation pointed out it could infringe on property rights, could diminish property values and is too strict of a measure to solve the problem. Comments in support centered around protecting scenic views in the county and arguing the regulation would be a community service, not a burden.

In March, the boards met again to discuss the public's take on the proposal. At that meeting, commissioners wondered if the entire county should be included in a regulation, whether guidelines would work better than a regulation and how people building in the skyline could mitigate for visual impact, Phillips said.

Tonight's meeting will delve into those issues further and should result in a clearer direction for the county on a skyline regulation, Phillips said.

"Part of these discussions was (finding out) what it means to mitigate," Planning Commission Chairman Troy Brookshire said.

Planning staff and commissioners often throw around the word "mitigate" to refer to reducing the impact a structure or property use has on the community, but nobody has determined what mitigate exactly means with the skyline issue, he said.

In a memo sent to commissioners to help stimulate discussion in tonight's meeting, Phillips outlined what other local governments in Colorado have done to "mitigate" skyline impacts. They include height maximums for the structure, matching the profile of the building to the landscape, building berms and reducing exterior lighting.

As far as introducing nonrestrictive guidelines instead of a regulation, Brookshire said the jury is still out on whether he thinks it would be effective.

"I don't know what (the planning) staff has in mind to get guidelines out there and I don't know how guidelines get implemented," he said.

Phillips said the idea of a skyline regulation was contrived from public comment on past area planning meetings. However, he estimated that those plans covered only 25 percent of the county, meaning the comments only came from people living in that 25 percent. Plus, not all the plans mentioned protecting ridgelines. Those facts will fuel discussion on whether a regulation should encompass the entire county, he said.

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