Q. What are the zoning and subdivision regulations? Why did the county decide to update the regulations? When was the last time they were updated?
A. The zoning and subdivision regulations are the primary tools for regulating land use, and the subdivision of land into parcels of less than 35 acres. The goal of the regulations is to provide a reasonable balance between protection of private-property rights and regulation of land use to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the community. The Routt County Zoning Resolution and Subdivision Regulations only apply in the unincorporated parts of the county. The towns of Yampa, Oak Creek and Hayden, and the city of Steamboat Springs have their own individual land use regulations.
The zoning and subdivision regulations have had more than 50 minor updates since they were originally adopted; the most recent was in 2001. The updates were done to keep the zoning resolution and subdivision regulations current with the needs of the community and the requirements of state law. However, the piecemeal adoption of the updates has resulted in regulations that can be somewhat cumbersome and difficult to use. What is being proposed now is the first comprehensive update of the regulations since they were adopted in 1972.
Q. How will this impact county residents?
A. County residents will have a more streamlined and easier to understand development and permitting process. Even though this is the first comprehensive update of the 1972 zoning and subdivision regulations, there are only a few major regulatory changes.
The primary focus was on reformatting the regulations into a draft that can be understood by someone other than an attorney or planner. The regulatory changes that have been proposed are generally designed to reduce or eliminate existing restrictions.
Q. What are the biggest changes, or the changes that residents will be most interested in?
A. The biggest change is a 40 percent reduction in the length of the regulations; more than 140 pages were eliminated by reorganizing existing regulations, better use of tables and charts, and consolidating redundant information. Other changes include:
n New, convenient tables in the zoning and subdivision regulations that summarize land use approval processes.
n A faster, administrative process for minor changes and technical corrections to Conditional Use Permits, Special Use Permits and Planned Unit Developments.
n Elimination of some restrictions on home-based businesses, including a broadened definition of home occupations and a new category of Special Use Permit for "Home Industry." Businesses that were not allowed anywhere except commercial zone districts would now be allowed in all zone districts provided they meet certain criteria and are compatible with the neighborhood in which they are located.
n Camping will be allowed as a use by right in all zone districts except commercial, mining and industrial; currently camping is only a use by right in the agriculture/forestry zone district.
n Increased affordable housing opportunities by reducing restrictions on secondary dwelling units.
n Better support for local agriculture through a simplified permit process for limited retail sales of local produce (i.e. produce stands) in the majority of the county.
n Reduced setback requirements in residential zone districts.
n Increased site-plan flexibility in the commercial zone district.
n Consideration of land-conservation and public-benefit standards for new surface mines and updated standards for oil, gas, and coal bed methane development.
n A simplified process for subdivisions that do not create new buildable lots (lot line adjustments, consolidation plats, technical plat corrections). Approval time will be reduced from 45 days to 21 days for most applications.
n New subdivision design standards that discourage overlot grading, and discourage new subdivisions on remote or minimal maintenance county roads.
n New light pollution standards for permitted uses.
Q. How did you decide to make these changes? Why were these made? Do the changes represent reactions to public comment, new trends, other?
A. County planning staff, under the direction of the Board of County Commissioners and the Planning Commission, created the majority of the language in the draft. Changes within the draft came from a variety of sources, including public comments, experience with recent land use approvals, and department policies. Another driving force behind the changes is the recent updates to the Routt County Master Plan and the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. Both plans have action items that call for modification of regulations. Staff not only sees this draft as a much more user-friendly document, but one that also reflects the current status of local development and community goals.
Q. What's the process for accepting the new regulations?
A. At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Routt County Planning Commission will hold a work session to discuss the working draft. Depending on the outcome and the direction of the Planning Commission, the meeting could either be followed by a future work session or possibly a review/adoption hearing. The Planning Commission would make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners. The board would then consider the recommendation, and vote to approve, approve with changes, or deny the draft. All these actions would occur at public hearings.