The Pitkin County commissioners approved an emergency ordinance Wednesday establishing a temporary moratorium on issuing permits for structures of any kind that violate certain zoning restrictions in the county.
The moratorium was put in place in response to a loophole in regulations that allowed a large wedding to take place Saturday in a so-called rural and remote zone on Little Annie Basin without a permitting process for the size and scale of the event.
The temporary moratorium went into effect immediately and is set to last nine months, giving the county time to adjust the zoning regulations.
“It’s good to take care of this,” said Cindy Houben, director of community events in Pitkin County. “I’m very pleased that the Board of County Commissioners are honoring the intent of the rural and remote zone districts. Code is hard to write; to understand every specific thing that goes on or is allowed or disallowed by a code is hard to get it right. The ultimate goal is to protect rural and remote areas.”
Three exemptions to the moratorium were added to the ordinance.
The first exemption restricts the size of temporary structures that do not require a permit. The size-restriction exemption is based on the allowable square footage, which is 1,000 square feet, in a rural and remote zone. If there is no structure on the land, a 1,000-square-foot temporary structure, like a large tent, can be used. If a structure already is in place on the property, the county will exempt one-half of its square footage in calculating the total allowed temporary square footage. For example, if a 1,000-square-foot home is on a certain property, 500 square feet of temporary structure can be added. The exemption for additional structures is capped at 1,000 square feet. Therefore, no additional structures can be erected on land that has an existing structure of 2,000 square feet or more.
The county also would still require a safety permit for using any tent larger than 200 square feet.
The second exemption applies to any structures associated with an application for a special-event or temporary commercial-use permit that has been approved already.
The third exemption allows a wedding planned for June 28 on the Star Peak parcel, near Ashcroft, to proceed with a planned 2,500-square-foot tent structure. The tent still will need to get a county safety permit.
“With the moratorium now in place, we believe we closed that rural-and-remote-zoning loophole that allowed the Saturday wedding to take place on Little Annie Basin,” County Manager Jon Peacock said. “There will not be that scale or scope of development, temporary or permanent, in the rural and remote region. That said, we have a moratorium in place for nine months that will give us time to change our code and work with all the stakeholders to amend our code so that it does what we intended it to do.”