Pitkin County may relax limits on agricultural buildings
December 7, 2010
ASPEN – New regulations that grant more square footage to agricultural buildings in Pitkin County are gaining traction with county commissioners, but the additional space for barns and other structures may not be enough to satisfy rural landowners.
Commissioners reviewed revised land-use rules for agricultural buildings Tuesday in the presence of about a dozen interested landowners, mostly from the Emma and Snowmass-Capitol Creek areas, but did not reach an agreement with the landowners on how much square footage should be granted for barns, hay storage buildings and structures to house agricultural equipment.
The Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus, for example, has proposed allowing 2,974 square feet for such uses on a 20-acre parcel; the total would jump to 5,498 square feet for a 35-acre parcel and 7,462 square feet for a 100-acre agricultural property. The numbers include nearly 1,000 square feet for an equipment shed, regardless of the size of a property, so long as it’s at least 20 acres.
The county’s proposal, at present, allows 2,384 square feet for a 20-acre parcel, 3,978 square feet for a 35-acre parcel and 6,472 square feet for a 100-acre parcel, but allots no space to a separate equipment building.
The county’s proposal is a little short of what’s sufficient, according to Jan Martin, representing the caucus, urging commissioners to boost what would be automatically available for agricultural buildings.
“Otherwise, I don’t think we’re going to quite get where we need to be,” she said.
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“We are so close to getting a workable solution to this question of agricultural buildings,” agreed Frieda Wallison, a caucus member, pressing for the equipment building allowance. “If you can’t put your equipment in a sufficiently large or medium-sized area to protect it, you can’t do what the barn and the hay storage are intended to allow you to do.”
Norm Clasen of the Emma Caucus urged commissioners to consider the equipment shed space allowance for properties of less than 20 acres, as well. Owners of those properties have equipment that requires protection, too, he said.
“A tractor is a huge, huge investment,” Clasen said.
The county already allows extra square footage for agricultural buildings, but is considering increasing the amounts with the new regulations. Properties of more than 160 acres are currently allowed barns of unlimited square feet and that would continue.
The code revisions would also provide floor area for hay storage and livestock “loafing sheds” – shelters where animals can get out of the elements. In addition, the definition of “livestock” would be broadened to include cows, horses or other animals kept or raised for “use, profit or pleasure.”
The revised rules are scheduled to go before the county Planning and Zoning Commission on Dec. 21, and come back to commissioners for formal review early next year.
Commissioners, however, where split on whether they were willing to boost the square footage beyond what is already proposed in the code revisions.
Several commissioners were sympathetic to allowing the utility shed square footage for equipment, and Commissioner Rachel Richards said she could see the need for more than one loafing shed on properties of fewer than 20 acres. Only one is allowed for those small parcels in the current proposal.
She also questioned whether additional square footage for barns would result in the loss of the county’s quaint, historic barns. She called for some protections for those structures.
Commissioner Patti Clapper suggested starting with the square footage that has been proposed in the code revisions, though she also said: “You sold me on the utility building.”
Commissioner Michael Owsley, however, said he’d have difficulty adding a 990-square-foot utility or equipment building to what is already proposed, and indicated he wasn’t comfortable boosting the allowed square footage to the level suggested by the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus.
Commissioner George Newman acknowledged a 20-acre property could have the same needs as a 70-acre parcel and questioned treating them differently.
Left out of the discussion entirely were greenhouses, which the county intends to address separately.