Pitkin County hearing would run counter open meeting laws, transparency

The following letter was written to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners regarding a hearing set Wednesday that concerns amending Title 8 of the Pitkin County code regarding the Growth Management Quota System. It does not include the attachment mentioned at the letter’s conclusion.

We are writing to you as a group comprised of local land use attorneys and planning professionals with many years of experience with the Growth Management Quota System (“GMQS”) and how it operates. We wish to voice our opposition and concerns to the Board of County Commissioners (“BOCC”) about its consideration of this ordinance at the BOCC’s public hearing on (Wednesday).

Debating and voting on this ordinance with no members of the public present and in person on account of state and local “shelter-in-place” restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic is unfair and inconsistent with Colorado’s open meetings and sunshine law requirements. Allowing the public to simply call in via Zoom or other teleconference technology does not allow for meaningful public input. The county’s proposed process would not allow the public to engage and interact with the BOCC in person as it discusses and debates the ordinance. Simply put, the public needs to be able to be present and participate while the BOCC discusses and debates the ordinance. Having another Zoom call — not unlike the Planning and Zoning Commission’s April 7 meeting where the county’s conference capabilities were deficient — is not the way for the BOCC to deliberate on this important initiative.

Many of the undersigned participated in and/or carefully followed the county’s work on the energy code amendments. We laud the process that the county followed. The public participation was overwhelming and resulted in a final product that considered many different facets of development in Pitkin County and their impact on climate change.

By contrast, the instant GMQS amendment process has not engaged the public during the discussion and drafting of this ordinance. The public has had no opportunity to participate in any discussion on the matter and instead has been forced to react last minute, over Zoom teleconference. This is not the way Pitkin County traditionally takes on this type of land use process, and is especially inappropriate during the shelter-in-place restrictions.

Accordingly, we respectfully request that the BOCC suspend its consideration of the ordinance until shelter-in-place requirements have been lifted and the county can fully engage the community in a meaningful public discussion regarding the ordinance. Failure to do so would certainly not be in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Pitkin County. In the meantime, we request that the BOCC instruct county staff to establish a working group model not unlike that the county created for the energy code amendments and coordinate with such group to present an ordinance to the P&Z and BOCC that addresses the myriad of issues with the GMQS.

Lastly, in response to the Planning and Zoning Commission’s request for public input on the ordinance raised at its April 7, 2020 meeting, and to the extent that you do elect to engage in a discussion of the merits of this ordinance at your April 22 meeting, we offer the attached substantive comments / issues in connection therewith.

Garfield & Hecht P.C., BendonAdams, Stan Clauson Associates Inc., Curtis & Associates, Klein Coté Edwards Citron LLC, Haas Land Planning LLC, Holland & Hart LLP, Davis Horn Inc., Waas, Campbell, Rivera, Johnson & Velasquez LLP; Kaufman, Dishler & McAllister, PC; The Myler Law Firm; Oates, Knezevich, Gardenswartz, Kelly & Morrow PC; Ring Development Services; Sherman & Howard, Grafton Planning and Joe Wells