Garfield County takes another look at gas-field housing regulations |

Garfield County takes another look at gas-field housing regulations

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County commissioners have directed the county attorney to review their decision to streamline county regulations for small, temporary housing in area gas fields.

Commissioner John Martin brought up the issue Monday about whether County Attorney Don DeFord’s staff should analyze whether their recent decision to allow energy companies to establish state-certified, small, housing facilities at well pads constituted a “takings” of someone’s private property.

“I have lost sleep over this,” Martin said. “This is this is very basic philosophy that I have that we protect personal property rights.”

The new rules the commissioners approved earlier this month would allow energy companies to put up state-inspected, small temporary housing facilities for up to eight essential personnel at area well pads without obtaining special-use permits. The county calls that process “use-by-right.”

Companies putting up such housing facilities would not have to receive a building permit from the county, either. However, companies would have to notify the sheriff’s office and area fire protection districts regarding occupancy of the temporary housing units, and comply with about 20 performance standards mandated by the county. Those have to be signed off on by a licensed engineer.

Some people have objected to the changes, saying they could undercut area residents’ property rights.

“Are our regulations a ‘takings’ to that surface owner who does not control the (mineral rights to their property)?” Martin asked Monday. “I feel that it is not. I feel the regulation is within our realm, and that it is not a taking.”

Commissioner Tresi Houpt was neither for nor against the county seeking additional legal review of the issue. However, she reiterated her opposition allowing companies to establish temporary housing facilities without strong county oversight.

“The landowner should clearly be in the loop about who is going to be living on their property and for how long,” Houpt said. “I wouldn’t waver from the position that it is wrong for this county to adopt a regulation that completely takes them out of the loop.”

Commissioner Larry McCown said the only thing the new rules did was to “waive the need for a building permit.”

“There is not a land-use issue that requires a public hearing when a building permit is pulled,” McCown said. “We waived the need for a building permit.”

McCown supported the legal staff to research the matter to have “accusations” swirling around it to be put to rest.

Camps housing nine to 24 workers would require authorization by the county planning department, and would require the surface owner to be the petitioner for the temporary housing. Any larger housing would still require a hearing before the county commissioners, as the county has been requiring of camps of all sizes under its current rules.

DeFord said he will prepare an opinion and submit it to commissioners as an attorney-client document. The commissioners will later release that opinion to the public.

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