All’s quiet on new land-use rules
The general public has been quiet so far about the county’s plans to rewrite a section of the land-use code that affects landowners from Redstone to Meredith to Independence Pass.It remains anyone’s guess whether the developers, land-use attorneys and property owners affected by the proposal – especially those with development approvals that have yet to be built – will show up for Tuesday’s Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on the matter.”I haven’t heard a thing,” said P&Z commissioner Charlie Tarver, who was instrumental in delaying the final vote on changes to the code on vested rights. “I’m not sure if anybody will show up at the meeting.”So far, the county planning department has only received one letter on the subject, though there have been a fair number of calls asking for copies of the code amendments.Once the county commissioners approve a development application, the landowner or developer is given a certain amount of time to build the proposal without having to worry about new mandates from the government. That time period, currently three years, is known as the vesting period, and the county places almost no restrictions on extensions of vested rights.The changes would extend the initial period to five years, but make it much more difficult to receive an extension. The controversial sections in the proposal, which was drafted by assistant county attorney Marcella Larsen Chilson, concerned pre-1978 development approvals, some more recent approvals, and the county’s ability to pose new conditions on development during the vesting period.Originally, Chilson’s language would have voided all pre-1978 approvals, effective immediately. It was that provision, along with an exceptionally short, two-week comment period, that chaffed the planning commissioners’ sense of fairness.Instead of sending the new rules on to the Board of County Commissioners, the planning commissioners asked for another hearing, and directed the county attorney’s office to look for some way to give landowners with older, unused development rights a chance to build.One concerned landowner told The Aspen Times he would likely have to sell his property if the changes were adopted. He was particularly miffed that he had called the county planning office just a month of so before the changes were made public to ask if he needed to do anything to preserve his development right. The planning department reportedly told him that he didn’t need to worry about a thing.The latest draft would give all people with pre-1978 approvals, which so far have been exempt from vesting and other growth-management restrictions, a five-year grace period to begin development. After that, they must go through the approval process like everyone else.The latest version still contains language, which troubled land-use attorney Gideon Kaufman, permitting the county to apply “ordinances and regulations of general applicability” regardless of vesting status.Tuesday’s P&Z hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the county commissioner’s hearing room in the courthouse annex.
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