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Planning commission holds three-hour workshop

With an audience numbering around 100 Archuleta County residents, the Planning Commission held an unusually well-attended, three-hour workshop Aug. 26 at the Archuleta County Extension building.

At the beginning of the workshop, Planning Commission Chair Kirk England explained that workshops are normally organized for the commission to work with staff in a public forum and, while not normally opened to public comment, he was offering the public a chance to comment that night in light of the amount of interest.

The first topic of the night was the possibility of allowing smaller lot subdivisions from larger lots zoned for 35 acres and above.

Archuleta County Senior Planner Cindy Schultz described the proposal and its background as a way to keep bonafide ranching land less fragmented, while allowing small lots of 5 acres to be spilt off, but kept within the family.

The planning department proposal called for a onetime, one-lot subdivision to be allowed, which would supercede Colorado Senate Bill 35 of 1972.

England threw his own proposal into the mix, one which would, in his opinion, simplify the method of splitting off smaller lots by requiring the request to be looked at on a case-by-case basis by the Board of County Commissioners, thus allowing more than one split per property if deemed necessary (if more than one child wanted a lot from the family, for example, or any other instance approved by the BoCC).

Another concern brought up by the commission and echoed by the public was over the number of houses allowed per tract, with some who spoke worried that two per lot was too many, while others said for large ranches, two is not enough.

The second topic of the night concerned camping in RVs parked on lots for no longer than 120 days per calendar year.

Before discussion started, England clarified that a proposed amendment dealt only with camping and not living in an RV while a building permit is active. He reiterated that a number of questions, such as those relating to sanitation issues, had not been addressed.

To begin to address sanitation issues, the commission invited Mike Meschke of San Juan Basin Health to the speak. He said that, currently, septic permits are required for RVs on residential lots because they are considered a dwelling, noting that campgrounds follow a different sanitation code.

Meschke added that, currently, to have more than one RV on a lot, the lot must have a second acre.

Again, England wrote a proposed Land Use Code amendment, one that would allow no more than two occupied units per tract of one-half acre and up, with one allowed on tracts smaller than one-half acre, with the units occupied only between May 1 and Sept. 1 if they are the property owner occupied. (Meschke said they generally only police lots looking for permanence after an RV has been occupied for more than 120 days in a calendar year.)

Further discussion on the topic centered on the need to have a use permit allowing for landowner accountability versus the right to not have to pay twice for use of private land (a fee-less permit with possible fines was offered as an option).

Audience members disagreed with the limit to the summer months, while others voiced the need for consideration of the natural environment.

With much of the audience clearing out following the second topic of discussion, the final topic of the night was large, shipping-style storage containers — their use not currently covered in the Land Use Code.

Again, England came up with his own proposed LUC amendment that he described as fairly complex, but one that would, ultimately, lump greenhouses into a category with storage and accessory structures, and allow accessory structures to be put on a lot without a principle structure being built first.

In the ensuing discussion, concern was expressed over how accessory structures would be allowed on lots of various types (agricultural versus ranching) and sizes, with many noting the number of structures allowed should be determined by lot size, not a blanket threshold.

While a few in the audience voiced their approval of metal storage containers, others, such as Maureen Baylog, brought the containers’ possible use as a method of alternative housing to the attention of the planning commission — the second time she’d mentioned alternative housing at the meeting.

Deborah Brown thanked the commission for considering allowing secondary structures before primary structures are constructed, while others urged the commission to consider economic development in the community.

The topics will be discussed again at a planning commission meeting today, slated to be held at 6 p.m. at the Extension Building.