Bill would nullify local planning efforts
A Senate bill that would greatly reduce the ability of Colorado counties and towns to regulate local development plans was scheduled to hit the Senate floor Friday.
Silverthorne attorney Taylor Hawes, who represents the Northwest Council of Governments, drove to Denver on Wednesday to try to negotiate amendments to the far-reaching, property rights advocacy bill, known as SB 215.
“This is crazy. SB 215 would take away local governments’ ability to make growth pay its way,” Hawes said. “Plus it’s retroactive, so developers who finished their projects years ago could ask for reimbursement of their development fees. It’s hard to know how far it would go.”
As written, Senate Bill 215 says no property or development would be subject to state land use regulations known as 1041 regulations.
Major roads, reservoirs, residential neighborhoods and commercial developments typically are subject to 1041 regulations. Colorado counties and towns require major developments to go through the 1041 process, in addition to local development application procedures.
SB 215 would exempt land that was zoned before 1974 from county or town planning regulations. Critics say the bill would seriously compromise master comprehensive plans.
Hawes met on Wednesday with Senate Bill 215 sponsor, Sen. Lewis Entz, R-Hooper. Two statewide municipal groups, Colorado Counties, Inc., and the Colorado Municipal League, joined Hawes to persuade Entz to amend the bill.
The bill is being marked as a special-interest lobbying effort backed by Pitkin County landowner Peter Droste. Droste owns a 900-acre ranch near Snowmass Village, of which nearly 600 acres is secured as open space with an $8 million county conservation easement. On the remaining 325 acres, he wants to build nine to 11 houses.
Pitkin County planners told Droste that county land-use regulations prohibit him from building in the area because it is elk habitat and migration corridors. Droste took his case all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court and lost. He said he is advocating for his property rights.
“He’s trying to create legislation where he lost in the courts,” Hawes said. “This is special interest legislation at its best.”
Summit County planner Chris Hawkins said SB 215 would affect development planning in Summit County. “It’s pretty far-reaching,” said Hawkins. “This is a huge issue. They’re definitely trying to fast-track it.”
The bill made it out of the Agriculture Committee last Friday. If it passes today on the Senate floor it would go to the state House of Representatives, which would vote whether to make it law.
Entz, Sen. Ken Chlouber of Leadville and Sen. John Evans of Parker are among the dozen Senate Republican sponsors. But some sponsors began questioning whether the bill goes too far.
“It sounds like it’s hanging in the balance because some of the Republicans who were supporting it have backed out,” said Summit County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom. “It’s questionable whether it will move forward.”