Residents from across the county are invited to attend public meetings on the county's Purchase of Development Rights program during the next few weeks.
The meetings come at an important time for the program, as the 1-mill levy county voters established in 1996 will sunset in 2006 unless it is renewed.
"I think it's important that we continue to go out and have interaction with the community," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.
The county's mill levy has provided funds to land conservation organizations, which hold land in conservation easements. Through the purchase of development rights, a landowner continues to own the land, but the land conservation organization extinguishes all or some of the development rights according to the terms of the easement.
The program has helped protect about 3,900 acres, with pending applications covering another 3,600 acres.
Each public meeting will start with a short presentation by the program's Citizens Advisory Board. Discussion and public comment will follow. Members of the board and at least one county commissioner will attend each of the meetings.
The program has met great success, Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said. Holding a series of meetings not only will help the county to listen to opinions on the program but also to share those accomplishments with the public.
"This is a time to have an opportunity to hear more," Ellison said. "Hopefully (we'll) have a good exchange of ideas and information."
The focus of the meetings will be on the criteria used to evaluate applications to the program.
The program was one result of the Routt County Open Lands Plan developed through a public process in 1995, said Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak. County residents supported the program from the beginning, so it makes sense to go back to the public to learn how well the program has done, she said.
The Purchase of Development Rights program collects about $600,000 each year.
Discussions will soon begin about when to put renewal of the Purchase of Development Rights program back out for voter approval, which could happen in the 2005 election, Stahoviak said.
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