Consultant: Land use regulations are about more than making Eagle County uniformly pretty

A rewrite of Eagle County's land use regulations needs to accommodate gravel pits and other facilities needed in a growing community.
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There’s a lot of ground to cover in rewriting Eagle County’s land use regulations. The most recent review included a look at resiliency and similar topics.

Todd Messenger of Fairfield and Woods, a Denver law firm, is working on a rewrite of those regulations, an 18-month project, and has spent time at several meetings talking about what goals new regulations could take.

Whatever change comes in the new regulations, Messenger noted that change will be slow.

“None of these (regulatory) tools will solve problems overnight,” he said.

Future development will also require gravel mines, landfills and the like. Land uses can’t all be attractive, he said.

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A lot of attention is being paid to sustainability and resiliency in the regulatory world, Messenger said. He noted that sustainability is traditionally thought of as environmental stewardship. But, he added, officials need to think about times of volatility and crisis.

“What happens when it all goes wrong?” he asked. In those times — the days and weeks following a destructive wildfire, for instance — people want to know how quickly they can get the necessary permits to rebuild.

In addition, a project’s infrastructure and design need to meet official goals and standards, not just provide the least expensive path to approval.

Economic resilience is part of planning for the unpleasant, Messenger added.

What’s next?

Meetings about rewriting Eagle County’s land use regulations are set for Nov. 13 and Dec. 5 and 12. One meeting is set for January. The Nov. 13 meeting will discuss natural resource stewardship.
Drafting new regulations may begin after the January meetings.

Part of planning includes recognizing the difference between zoning for rural and urban areas. Another part of planning is understanding parking and similar needs.

Parking takes up a lot of land, Messenger noted, and Eagle County’s requirements are currently higher than for other communities. Giant parking lots can limit other economic or community opportunities, Messenger said.

On the other hand, County Manager Jeff Shroll noted that many existing workforce housing projects are home to construction workers, many of whom have large pickup trucks.

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“We want to be sensitive” to that, Shroll said. Although, he added, Gypsum’s Costco store is “completely over-parked.”

Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney noted she’s talked with people who want the county to expand its current standard of dual access points for new developments. But Messenger cautioned against putting too many new roads into rural areas, and recommended giving the county’s engineering department more responsibility for road standards.

The next session is set for Nov. 13.

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