Mancos Planning and Zoning Commission gets update on land use code

Monday, June 25, 2018 3:33 PM
Jennifer Guy, left, writes down her views on the Mancos land use code while talking with Town Administrator Heather Alvarez at a public input session in April.

On Wednesday, a pair of consultants gave the Mancos Planning and Zoning Commission their first glimpse of an updated land use code.

The town has hired planning firm SAFEBuilt Studio to give its land use code the first makeover it’s had in about 20 years. The firm has spent about two months gathering feedback on the code from Mancos residents through public meetings and weekly polls on its website. On Wednesday, two of its planners, Erica Heller and Elizabeth Garvin, presented an assessment of the existing code and a preliminary outline for the update, which included notes on which sections should be removed, expanded or left alone.

Heller and Garvin’s assessment identified six goals for the new code, starting with simplifying the document, which commissioners said is difficult for many people to understand and sometimes contradicts itself. For example, the new administration section will include illustrations, tables and flowcharts to guide residents through various application procedures.

“We don’t want the code to be opaque to anybody,” Garvin said. “We want to invite all the users in.”

Other goals in the outline included consolidating use regulations into a single article and removing redundant language from the rest of the code, streamlining review procedures, encouraging more affordable housing options, establishing a more consistent approach to nonconforming uses and adding more aesthetic requirements for new developments.

Many of the changes suggested in the outline came down to cleaning up the code’s language and removing redundancies. Heller said many of the changes in regulations, such as increases in affordable housing, were specifically requested by Mancos residents.

Garvin said the update will also include a “use interpretation” section to help commissioners decide how to apply the code to unforeseen land use proposals.

The planners gave their presentation via conference call in the second half of a lengthy Planning and Zoning meeting. The commissioners voiced enthusiastic approval for several of their suggestions, and asked questions about how the update would solve certain ambiguities in the current code.

Earlier in the meeting, the commissioners denied a special exception for a house on Second Avenue, partly because of some confusion on the types of additions allowed in the neighborhood under the land use code. The commissioners said they hoped the update would clear up some of those regulations.

“There are sections of the code that people interpret differently, as far as, ‘How do I measure, and where do I measure from?’” Town Administrator Heather Alvarez said.

The SAFEBuilt planners said consistency and clarity will be top priorities for the new code, although the details of the update are still in their earliest stages.

Heller said the firm will bring the town a reformatted version of the code update in late July for further discussion. The new land use code is scheduled to be finished and approved in early 2019.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the commission voted unanimously to appoint Tiffany Hurst as an alternate on the commission. The five-member commission is now fully staffed, with three regular commissioners and John Cox serving as the second alternate.