Cortez city staff have been ironing out the final details for the updated land use code, which will soon be put to a vote.
The City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission held a workshop June 25 to debate some of the different components of the drafts that have been presented by City Planner Tracie Hughes. Hughes will review feedback gathered from the meeting to finalize the code before a vote later this year.
“I did my best to honor the comments we’ve received,” Hughes said at the workshop’s opening. “This conversation tonight is probably going to determine what the next steps are.”
At the workshop, Hughes focused on parts of the draft that have received objections and comments from the community or members of the elected bodies – in particular, design requirements, landscaping and special-use standards.
In terms of design requirements, the discussion focused on the appropriate percentage of decorative material for building exteriors. These standards would apply to nonresidential and mixed-use development.
“The purpose of these standards is to ensure that nonresidential, public, institutional and mixed-use development have high-quality, well-designed buildings and sites that contribute to the unique character and aesthetics of the City,” the draft code reads.
Those present at the workshop weighed the aesthetic value of decorative materials versus the cost burden passed down to business owners – specifically, whether the ratio of decorative to secondary materials should be 1-to-1 or 3-to-2.
Decorative materials are generally more costly than the secondary options, although City Engineer Chad Hill pointed out that the expense was fairly negligible when considering the overall cost of a 4,000-square-foot building. “Decorative materials” would include brick and stone, with glazing like Portland cement stucco or Exterior Insulation and Finish System. “Secondary materials” include products such as vinyl, metal and wood siding.
“I understand the talks about wanting to give people an opportunity to open,” said City Councilor Jill Carlson. “But we also want a healthy economy, buildings that will lead to healthy economics that will incentivize people to move in.”
Planning and Zoning Chairwoman Rebecca Levy said that she was concerned that a 1-to-1 ratio would give rise to buildings with a “stripe down the middle.”
“That’s not a good design,” she said.
The overall consensus seemed to lean toward a 3-2 ratio, with officials arguing that stricter design standards would be better for the city in the long run.
“I think you need to look at a building as something more permanent than what its current occupancy is,” Levy said.
The landscaping discussion centered around the appropriate plant count along with the percentage of land required to be landscaped. The current draft has a 15% landscaping requirement.
They brought up a variety of considerations, from the aesthetic value of plants to the city’s waterwise campaign – in addition to the difficulties of enforcement, without seeming litigious or excessively punitive. Overall, the officials seemed to be OK with maintaining a 15% requirement.
“Plants really add value and aesthetics to a community,” said Councilor Mike Lavey.
Councilor Jill Carlson brought up the possibility of using the landscaping requirements as an educational opportunity for the community as the city continues on its waterwise campaign.
And talk on special use standards focused on the possibility of buffering between zoning districts, particularly when a commercial district is adjacent to a residential area.
“If somebody’s moving into an area that historically was residential, and there’s still people living there residentially, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for the people coming in to mitigate,” Carlson said.
As the joint workshop was just a discussion, no action was taken on June 25. Once staff have finalized the code, it will then be voted upon by both elected bodies.