An updated land use code for Cortez is inching toward approval, although city staff members are still receiving feedback.
Tuesday night, The Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission approved the update, with proposed changes to come, in response to residents’ concerns. City Planner Tracie Hughes emphasized that the update has the ability to adapt in the future.
“We talked about the code a lot,” Hughes said. “And the code is not a static document; it can be amended. And subjects that did not come up during public input can still be amended as staff and public may have additional insights or changes of philosophy in the future.”
Commissioners voted 3-2 to advance the update to City Council, with Lance McDaniel and Robert Rime voting against it. The council plans to consider the update at its Sept. 24 meeting.
The nearly 500-page document includes new standards for landscaping, building aesthetics and zoning. It would take effect around March 1, 2020.
The recommendation included conditions that an adjoining lot consolidation requirement be adjusted, minimal landscaping requirements in Industrial Park be reduced and staff look into permits for sidewalk signs.
A large portion of the meeting involved local developer Dave Waters’ disagreement with existing code dealing with neighborhood lot standards. If a “lot of record” is under the required square footage but adjoins a vacant lot under the same ownership, the two lots would be consolidated to meet the minimum requirement.
“I have to take two lots to build on, because I own two lots side by side,” Waters said. “Where my neighbor can build on the same lot, because he only owns one.” Staff members said the stipulation exists in the current code, but according to Waters, his undersized lots previously have been grandfathered in and given a permit.
Waters said the lot size requirement would cost developers “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and keep them from building low-income housing.
City staff members said the requirement was created to prevent development on undersized lots, but developers may request exceptions.
“We want Cortez to succeed,” said Public Works Director Phil Johnson.
But Waters said he did not want to depend on a subjective judgment call, and he is concerned about losing vested rights to his property.
Waters’ specific situation deals with the 7,000-square-foot minimum lot size in Residential Single Family Dwelling zoning districts – his property is just shy that size.
Commissioners and staff members proposed changing the consolidation requirement to apply to lots less than 6,000 square feet.
Tiffani Randall, co-owner of STR Custom Coating, took issue with a section of code requiring 15% of properties be landscaped.
Randall was opposed to code requiring her to add fencing or plants around her property in Industrial Park, arguing that because her property was at the bottom of a hill near the Geer Natural Area, her building would still be visible from higher up.
“The landscaping of Geer isn’t conducive to those bufferings,” she said.
Commissioner Rime agreed that Industrial Park standards didn’t need to match those in the Central Business District. “When I think of the Industrial Park, I don’t think of a cute place,” he said.
Commissioners said they would propose that council approve lower standards to 10% landscaping for Industrial Park.
Randall, who owns Love on a Hanger in downtown Cortez, also sought to lower sign standards.
“My windows are everything,” she said. “Hanging a sign from my awning is one of the best advertisements I could do.”
Commissioners directed staff to look into signs and sign permits as part of the recommendation.