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Southeast land plan moving toward approval
11/21/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
There was a decidedly new element to the proposed southeast area land use plan during a community meeting on Nov. 15 in Ignacio.
It wasn’t with the plan itself. It was a new united front between current La Plata County planning staffers and the locals who have been trying for years to get their plan approved by the county.
Long range planner Erick Aune and planning staffer Ronnie Overstreet told around 25 Ignacio area residents that
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they will support the plan when it goes to the county planning commission on Dec. 13.
Aune has worked for the county for two years and was given the task of working with the southeast and southwest planning areas, where many residents have been hostile to county land use regulation.
The county’s other eight planning areas, where residents are more amenable to regulation, had plans approved in 1996 and ‘97. A plan for the southwest area got county approval several months ago.
The area plans have been advisory for the county planning commission. But they become mandatory with a new land use code that was approved in the summer to take effect in January. They will be more like zoning, Aune said.
He and Overstreet jokingly recognized a longtime complaint of the local residents who created the draft southeast plan - the turnover in county planning staff, that just as locals familiarized a new planner with Ignacio area issues, the planner either was re-assigned or resigned and the locals had to start over with a new planner.
“We sort of call this the Bermuda Triangle of long-range planners,” Aune joked. Both he and southeast planning committee member Jerry McCaw sounded conciliatory.
“We’re committed to work with anyone who is interested,” Aune said. “We aren’t interested in pushing anything on you. We’re here to listen and make the (county) officials understand what you are trying to tell us.”
McCaw, who has been involved with the local plan effort since 1995, said, “We put together a plan. They (county planners) wanted a map, so we did a map.”
The map, with minor variations over the years, has designated large areas of private land for unspecified use. The local committee refused to designate ag land uses, on grounds that it seriously reduces property value.
“Some of the areas that don’t have services, we called it ‘other,’” McCaw said. County planners’ “definition off ‘other’ is different from ours. Ours is ‘We don’t have a clue what is going to go out there.’ Other, mixed use, it’s in limbo. There’s nothing out there. No roads, no electric. We’re the last area that doesn’t have a plan. Let’s see if we can compromise and put something together.”
He and Aune agreed the locals and the county have had different meanings for terms like “other” or “mixed use.”
Aune commented, “The mixed use to us was almost a threat. It means you can do anything.”
McCaw continued, “This spring the county was advertising for a planner to plan the southeast district. We said ‘Wait a minute!’ It should be the people in the district, not an outside planner. We thought it was best for us to do our own plan. The commissioners and Erick have been very supportive.”
He also said, “The county has gone beyond where we ever expected, where we’ve been before. We have reached out an olive branch. Until two weeks ago, I didn’t understand what the county’s idea of mixed use was. We weren’t even close.”
The county’s version is a transition zone between residential and commercial, Aune said. McCaw said the local committee still wants its map with the large areas of unspecified use. He said the committee needs to come up with a better term for those land areas.
Aune noted a list of 16 requirements put out by the county attorney. He said he considers them problematic if not downright incoherent. “We disagree with the attorney letter of why this (plan) is not appropriate,” he said, citing things it would require of this plan that aren’t in any of the other area plans.
McCaw and others said the county should adopt the plan with the idea that it will change. “The day after it’s approved, I hope there will be about 10 people ready to revise it,” McCaw said.
Lack of a plan leaves the area without a way to guide growth and deal with unanticipated changes, Aune said.
McCaw said adopting the plan also is protection against future changes in county planning staff. “Erick is very pleasant to deal with. He’ll probably be gone in a couple days and the next 12 (planners) will be tougher to deal with,” McCaw said. “If we have something in place, the county can’t come out and say ‘This is what we are going to do.’ ... If you think this (Aune) is the norm as a planner, I have a bridge to sell you.”
But he doubts county planning commissioners will accept the plan this time around.
Aune said, “I and Ronnie are committed to really run it up again.”
Overstreet added, “I’m as committed as possible to make sure the opinions in this room and anyone else get heard... Everything I can put in a staff report...”
Several audience members expressed their ongoing distrust of the county, even if they like Aune.
Dick Norton cited an ongoing county assertion that the people pushing the plan don’t really reflect the desires of the people. “The person with the one-acre lot that wants my open space is the people” to county officials, not the large landowners who provide that open space, Norton said.
He urged a large turnout at the Dec. 13 planning commission meeting, plus letters, e-mails and phone calls to support the plan.
McCaw said, “If you (Aune) will come out in support of the plan, we’ll get the people there. ... We need the planning department behind it. Without that, you are dead in the water. The politics are as good as they have been in 12 years to get it adopted.”
The latest version of the area planning map shows residential development along parts of County Roads 318, 311, 309A, and 510, along part of Highway 172, and due west of Ignacio.
It shows commercial at the east end of CR 318, a section of Highway 151 east of Ignacio and near Allison, and along Hwy 172 around and east of Oxford. It shows industrial use near the airport, toward the west end of CR 318, at the east end of 318, and at Allison.
Aside from those, private land is designated as the long-debated “mixed use.”
The day after the Ignacio meeting, the county announced Aune will be interim planning department director, replacing Nancy Lauro, who resigned last month.
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