The Cortez City Council voted to push a final reading and hearing on the city’s land use code update through the end of January – giving residents an extra 3½ months to submit comments.
The code update includes new standards for landscaping, building aesthetics, and zoning, and has been in the works for about five years.
The update was on the table for a second reading and possible approval Tuesday night, but after some strong comments from residents, they opted to push the vote through the end of January to allow for more feedback.
The land use code update is nearly 500 pages long, and if approved, is slated to go into effect in March 2020. The latest draft was officially posted at the end of 2018, and since then it has been discussed at three public outreach meetings, and at several Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council meetings.
Hughes emphasized at the meeting that the code can be amended as needed, and is not a “static document.”
About nine members of the public spoke Tuesday night – both to oppose and support the code update – including Dave and Lana Waters, local developers in town.
The two have voiced concerns, along with their daughter and son-in-law, at previous meetings – specifically around an adjoining lot consolidation requirement, landscaping requirements in Industrial Park, and sign standards in downtown businesses.
At a previous Planning and Zoning meeting, commissioners voted to recommend the update’s approval, alongside conditions addressing the Waters’ concerns – that the adjoining lot consolidation requirement be adjusted, landscaping requirements in Industrial Park be reduced, and that staff members look into sign standards and permitting for sidewalk signs.
But Tuesday, the Waters said they were speaking out on behalf of other developers in town, and said that not enough time was offered for public comment.
“There’s been very little outreach for this,” Waters said. “There were three meetings held within nine days.” According to the city website, the outreach meetings were held on Feb. 11, 13, and 20 earlier this year.
They added that the new code has the potential to stifle business development and could possibly cost developers like themselves thousands of dollars.
In response, Mayor Karen Sheek said that the code has been in the public’s eye for years now, and that staff members have offered community members multiple opportunities to submit concerns.
“You’ve had a number of occasions at workshops and other council meetings where you’ve had the opportunity to be able to express your concerns,” Sheek said. “Staff has always had an open door for you to go in and visit with them.”
Carlson also pointed out that much of the code would remain the same from the previous version, adding that she has been on council since 2016 and plenty of public meetings were held regarding the land use code. Dave Waters contended, though, that he felt fewer opportunities had been offered since the release of the finalized draft.
The other comments expressed by the public were mixed, with some in favor of the new regulations, while others opposed the document, saying it would deter business development in town with excessive requirements.
After about an hour of back-and-forth discussion, Councilors Sue Betts, Ty Keel, and Jill Carlson proposed some sort of extension of the ordinance. Carlson suggested that contractors be given a few months to submit written or recorded feedback.
“Not the entire 400-page code, because a lot of it is just the same language that’s already in effect,” Carlson said. “But the changes that you have concerns to.”
They unanimously approved a motion to continue the public hearing and second reading of the ordinance to Jan. 28, 2020.
Community members can submit written comments for consideration through this time. The full land use code draft is available on the city website.
For more information, contact the Planning and Building Department at City Hall, 123 Roger Smith Ave., or by calling 565-3402.