Uses by right

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Changes to land-use code would increase flexibility in industrial and commercial zones

Montezuma County residents with land zoned for commercial or industrial uses will be able to take a number of actions – from manufacturing insecticides to repairing cars to running child-care centers – without obtaining a high-impact permit, under new amendments to the land-use code.

Following a public hearing, the county commissioners gave preliminary approval April 29 to a set of amendments that included a list of different “uses by right” for landowners in heavy-industrial, light-industrial, and commercial zones. They were expected to formally adopt the amendments on May 6 after staff made some minor changes in wording.

Another change to the code involved adding stipulations that new construction of commercial or industrial buildings and public buildings must be built to either the 1997 Uniform Building Code or “a more stringent code” if the developer chooses.

The code previously required that such buildings (but not residential buildings) be built according to the UBC, but that code is not really utilized any longer.

“Developers have a hard time finding the UBC 1997,” said Planning Director Susan Carver. “It was absorbed into the International Building Code.”

The planning department and planning commission had originally proposed stating that such buildings must be constructed to the UBC “or a more stringent code such as the IBC International Building Code,” but the commissioners and planners agreed it was best to avoid any reference to the IBC.

“It seems that what develops the most heartburn is the word ‘international’,” said Dennis Atwater, a member of the planning commission.

The planning group “had a long discussion Thursday [April 25] about that,” said Tim Hunter, vice chair of that group. “As a builder I’m not a big fan of the IBC because it goes beyond health and safety.”

Mancos resident Greg Kemp had a different take.

“I have never been anywhere before where people are so terrified of and by the word ‘international’,” he said during the public-comment period of the hearing. “Maybe it’s because I come from Detroit, which is a mile across the water from Canada, which is a different country.”

He added that “international” is in the title of the IBC because the code is used by other countries and is “one of the main ways in which other countries attempt to emulate the United States.”

States, counties and municipalities that use the IBC can modify it to suit their own needs, he said. “It is not written in stone. It is not the Ten Commandments or the Constitution.”

Kemp also said no one could build a commercial or industrial building today that is not international to some degree. “Most of our lumber products, cement, drywall, and shingles come from Canada. Most of our heating and ventilating equipment, electrical supplies and hardware come from Mexico. Most ceramic tile comes from Italy. . . The list goes on and on.”

During the public-comment period, Dexter Gill of Lewis and Richard Kipp of Pleasant View spoke about their distaste for regulations in general.

“We have come away from individual responsibility,” Gill said. He added that “most of the code in my opinion is irrelevant to actual construction” or there wouldn’t be so many old buildings still standing and functional.

Kipp said the word “international” does not disturb him, but “the word ‘control’ is a different can of worms. We have a lot of people come into our area from ‘nanny states’ that are used to control.”

But Carver said the intent of the amendments regarding industrial and commercial uses was to add flexibility and streamline the process for owners of those lands, allowing them to proceed with any of the “uses by right” without having to undergo the high-impact-permit process.

Uses by right on property that has been zoned “heavy industrial” would include bulk storage and redistribution of petroleum products or propane; pipe yards and equipment storage for oil and gas or extractive industries; construction yards; heavyequipment storage; sawmills; the manufacture, processing, or storage of insecticides, fungicides, or disinfectants; and more.

In the light-industrial zone, uses by right would include professional offices, furniture repair, outdoor storage, auto repair, veterinary clinics, and more.

In the commercial zone, a few of the uses by right would be medical services, hospitals and clinics; restaurants, food and beverage sales, bars and taverns; gas stations and conveniene stores; car washes; churches; and child-care centers.

The landowners must, however, certify to the county that they meet the definition of one or more of those uses. If their enterprise exceeds any of the county’s threshold standards regarding factors such as noise, traffic, or light, they have to submit a plan for mitigating those factors.

Landowners planning projects that are not among the uses by right will have to obtain a high-impact permit, Carver said.

“To a person, we aren’t real interested in control, unless it’s related to health, safety, and welfare,” said Atwater.

“We understand that the proposal is to try to make it more streamlined,” said Commission Chair Steve Chappell.

Another proposed amendment to the code deals with the zoning of tracts disposed of by the Forest Service, BLM, or other government entity into private hands. The proposed language says the planning staff is to provide a notice of recommended zoning (based on the parcel size and existing use) to the new private landowners, giving them an opportunity to respond, and setting up a public hearing at which the county commissioners would zone the tracts.

After the public comments and discussion, the commissioners then voted 3-0 to close public comments and continue the hearing until May 6.

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From May 2013.