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Pitkin County moves to adopt

If you think the new growth restrictions imposed by the county this summer are too restrictive, check out what’s going on in Meredith, Thomasville and the upper reaches of the Fryingpan River.

With a 5-0 vote, the Pitkin County Commissioners took the first step Wednesday to adopt the Upper Fryingpan Master Plan and set new limits on growth in one of the most isolated regions of the county. A public hearing and second reading for the plan is scheduled for Sept. 27.

The master plan, which was written by Upper Fryingpan residents, sets strict limits on commercial and residential development and establishes a new house size limit of 4,000 square feet. The master plan would also cut the potential number of new homes in the area by more than 40 percent, from 222 to 122. Right now, there are 105 homes in the upper Fryingpan Valley.

By contrast, the recently adopted changes to the county’s land use code capped house sizes at 5,750 square feet, with annual allowances for a limited number of larger homes and a loophole for anyone willing to purchase development rights from the backcountry.

“This is ideal,” said County Commissioner Shellie Harper. “We would like it if every neighborhood wrote their own master plan. The residents can argue among themselves and come up with a plan that works for their neighborhood.”

If the letters included in the staff memo on the plan are any indication, the plan works pretty well for the neighborhood, which spent much of the last two years working it out.

“Our caucus worked long and hard to submit a plan which represents the views of an overwhelming majority of the residents in the region. Disagreement was minimal. The few dissenters were divisive and offered little in the way of positive reasoning for their positions,” wrote Mike Turner, who owns property on the North Fork of the Fryingpan River.

More than a dozen letters expressing similar sentiments, and none opposing the plan, are included in the memo.

When the commissioners considered the master plan on Wednesday, there were only a few issues to settle. One question they had to answer was how to impose a 4,000-square-foot limit over the entire region, which includes townships, ranches and resorts. Another question was how to fairly deal with the small enclaves of mobile homes in the area.

The 4,000-square-foot limit is likely to be imposed with a zoning overlay. That means the master plan and all of its restrictions will hold precedence over the county’s existing zoning in the area. If the master plan is eventually rescinded, however, development would be governed by whatever zoning the county has in place at that time.

The question of the trailer courts is more difficult. Upper Fryingpan residents have said they don’t want to make it difficult for trailer owners to borrow money by making their property “non-conforming,” but nor do they want to encourage the kind of population density that comes with trailer courts.

County Commissioner Mick Ireland said it was likely the county would create a special zone that allows for the existing trailers but limits further development to the same standards that are being applied elsewhere in the area.


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