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County violates landowners' rights - Comments (1) View Comments
Carole McWilliams - 4/11/2008
When is it appropriate for county planners to tell you where to build your house on your land?
When rural subdivisions go through the approval process, county planning staff often require designated building envelopes on the lots, with the homesites clustered as much as possible.
Anyone who buys those lots buys into those restrictions.
Unfortunately, planning staffers also try to impose such restrictions after the fact, namely when a landowner applies to build a second home on one parcel. County rules say the second house has to be within 150 feet of the first one. Never mind where the landowner wants it.
I wrote about this a few months ago when the county commissioners voted 2-1 against a landowner’s appeal of this restriction.
In that case, the owner of 17 acres southwest of Bayfield planned a second house for a parent. They didn’t want to be looking into each others’ kitchen windows. Neither do most people who choose to live on large rural lots, I suspect.
In effect they were told to apply to split the parcel, with no guarantee of approval, if they want the houses farther apart.
The issue came up again recently. A family living on 40 acres in a remote area west of Ignacio wants to build a new house well away from the first one, because they are tired of listening to the gas compressor that’s near the first house.
But they have run up against this 150-foot rule – and the sensation of bureaucrats more interested in enforcing rules than in making local government work for the residents.
Both of these are cases of county regulators inserting themselves where they don’t belong. They aren’t the ones who paid for the land, who pay the taxes on it, who will pay to build the new house, and who will live in it.
These are not health or safety issues. They are personal preference.
And these aren’t three or five acre lots, where the 150-foot rule might make sense.
Especially with 40 acres in a remote area, this rule is ridiculous. What’s the point of having 40 acres if the houses have to be right close together – unless the people who are going to live in them want to be close, or the topography dictates that location.
People are told they can seek a variance. But variances aren’t easy to get. They require a showing of some sort of hardship that’s nor self-imposed or merely inconvenient.
Personal preference probably doesn’t count. Neither do the situations where the thing someone is proposing just makes more sense than following the exact rules.
This is the current land use code. The county is still working on its new land use code. This 150-foot-rule should be omitted. It’s the sort of intrusion that creates hostility to county land use regulations, even where they are warranted.
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