County agrees to limit land-use rules
August 7, 2002
Owners of lots approved for development in Pitkin County before the mid-1970s, when county and state lawmakers added wildlife and natural hazards as part of the review process, have never had to worry about such pesky issues – until now.
Pitkin County moved forward yesterday on its promise to extend its 1041 review process to lots that have long been exempt from such review.
But the county commissioners also agreed to limit the new regulations to just two factors – steep slopes and extreme wildfire hazards. Lots in older subdivisions continue to be exempt from considerations on wildlife habitat and the possibility of flooding for now.
The commissioners also agreed to develop a new review process that is less expensive and quicker.
Until the middle of last month many lots around the county were exempt from 1041 hazard review because they were located in subdivisions drawn out and approved before October 1975. It was that year that the state Legislature authorized counties to address issues such as wildfire, wildlife habitat, wetlands, floodplains, avalanche and rock-fall zones when landowners applied for a building permit.
Since then, there have been two classes of lots. Situations have resulted where one person was prohibited from putting a house on a steep hillside or on the river bank because his lot was created after 1975, while his neighbor, with a lot drawn out before 1041 regulations were enacted, could build a house on that very same hillside or right next to the river’s edge, according to County Commissioner Dorothea Farris.
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The change, which has been in the works since last month, means lots in subdivisions like Mountain Valley, Starwood and Gateway will now be subject to the same level of review as every other piece of property in the county.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where we say there is a life-safety issue there, but we’re not going to address it,” Commissioner Mick Ireland said in answering a question from attorney Paul Taddune.
Taddune represents the Starwood Homeowners Association. He said there are a number of homes in the design process for empty lots in the gated community outside Aspen that may be affected by the new rules. While everyone who pulled a building permit in Starwood prior to last month was exempted from 1041, all the new owners were suddenly subject to a level of review and set of standards that they had not been expecting.
Lance Clarke, deputy director of the county’s community development department, said anyone with a lot in Starwood, or any other affected subdivision, who was planning to build on slopes of 30 percent grade or more or in wildfire hazard areas would have to go through 1041 review, and relocate the development if there is a more suitable location on the lot.
County Attorney John Ely said the dilemma he and others have been facing is how to balance the need for review and the burden it can create.
“On the one hand, we don’t want to force people to go through an onerous process, but on the other hand we’re trying to address 1041 concerns where they exist,” Ely said. “Fire burns everywhere.”
The commissioners agreed that Ely and Clarke should write the amendments so some 1041 reviews are handled through administrative review. Ely said he should have a land-use code amendment ready within the next month.
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