The Cortez City Council has completed the first of three work sessions to review an update to the city’s land use code.
On March 12, City Planner Tracie Hughes guided City Council through a brief overview of the update with specific details on zoning districts, land uses and design standards. The next session will cover signage, parking, landscaping and subdivisions, and the final workshop will cover administrative processes and public feedback.
The Cortez Planning Commission has already worked through three work sessions beginning in November and city staff conducted three public outreach meetings in February. The update has been in the works since 2015.
After the City Council workshops, Hughes said there might be a joint meeting between City Council and Planning Commission before final adoption and approval.
Overall, Hughes said the updated land use code will be easy to use. The city will subscribe to EnCode Plus, an internet-based document presentation service that will allow the public to search for keywords and will include parking and landscaping calculators to help developers find out what certain projects would require.
Hughes said the addition of design standards for commercial buildings is one of the major changes in the code update.
“The current code does not have any design standards for commercial buildings,” Hughes said. “Literally nothing beyond setbacks and height restrictions and you have to screen mechanical equipment.”
The update would require certain material standards and require buildings to be oriented with the front facade facing the street. Larger buildings would face more stringent requirements. The update would require some decorative siding and secondary building materials, effectively prohibiting plain, metal buildings.
“Right now, people can put up a metal building, completely flat walls, no decorative materials,” Hughes said. “It’s not very attractive, and while that’s fine in some locations, if it’s downtown or just right on a commercial corridor, it is going to change or continue to affect the way that the city looks.”
Another addition will affect parking. Hughes said the update would require vehicles to be parked 10 feet from the property line. She said it would keep cars from being parked right on the edge of the lot and would provide more room for landscaping.
“Everyone should think about how they feel about that, or any of this stuff that I’m talking about,” Hughes told City Council. “I thought that went without saying. If you just hate what you’re hearing, you might want to let me know.”
Councilwoman Jill Carlson asked whether the addition of new provisions and criteria will lead to a need for more staff time.
Planning and Building Director Sam Proffer said the proposed draft land use code would actually cut staff time.
A provision in the update allows staff to approve projects with permitted uses. Projects with conditional uses would still have to go through public noticing, Planning Commission and City Council. He said the update will save time for both staff and project applicants.
“It will drastically cut down the time,” Proffer said.
Hughes said the majority of public feedback in February requested more landscaping for commercial development. Discussion on landscaping and signage is reserved for the March 26 City Council workshop about 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.