Montezuma County commissioners and the public Tuesday debated proposed land use code changes that would reduce setbacks from property lines and eliminate size restrictions for secondary residences.
But after hearing from the public, it was decided that both proposed changes need further review.
According to a proposal, residential setbacks from property lines would drop from 50 feet to 35 feet, and outbuildings would decrease from 30 feet to 15 feet from property lines. Distance from the road right of way for either structure would drop to 10 feet.
Numerous variances have been granted by the commission to allow existing and new buildings be closer than the setback standard, county officials said.
Kelly Belt urged that the current setbacks remain.
When people violate the code and build homes too close to their neighbors, it interferes with privacy, he said.
“You want separation from your neighbors,” Belt said. “Don’t bring the city into the county. Reducing the setbacks encroaches on the rural character.”
He said setback variances could be done when practical.
Real estate agent Carrie Summers asked who would enforce setback rules and other land use code regulations. She said many people don’t know the rules and build within the setbacks.
Commissioner Jim Candelaria leaned toward the reduced setbacks as reasonable, and Commissioners Larry Don Suckla and Keenan Ertel were on the fence.
Whether to eliminate the 1,500-square-foot cap on an accessory residence was also discussed.
According to the land use code, county parcels are allowed to have one main residence of any size and one accessory residence that does not exceed 1,500 square feet.
The limit seems arbitrary, commissioners said. Some citizens commented that it serves a purpose, and others said it was not practical.
The restriction prevents two “super-large homes” from going on one small property, said one resident, which would could have high water demand and stress septic systems.
Officials also discussed what constitutes an accessory dwelling.
Barns and shops without plumbing do not count as the accessory dwelling and can be any size. Planning director Don Haley said that once a structure has a bathroom and plumbing, it becomes the accessory dwelling not to exceed 1,500 square feet.
Each lot can only have one accessory dwelling no larger than 1,500 square feet.
There has been pushback on the rule.
For example, a barn or shop with a bathroom or an apartment would count as the accessory and would be required to meet the size standard. It also could put a landowner who had two residences on one lot out of compliance.
Danny Wilkin supports dropping the size limit because it limits the size of a barn or shop with a bathroom.
One compromise could be that only the apartment space in a barn count toward the 1,500-square-foot limit and not the entire structure, said Rebecca Samulski, who is running for the District 3 seat on the county commission.
The 1,500-square-foot limit is to manage impacts on a septic system, said one citizen from the Zoom video meeting portal. It’s a starting point, and the commissioners could review a reasonable variance case by case, she said.
Fourteen code variances have been granted by the county commission in the past two years.
That is not very many, said Kim Feeman, and “if they can be addressed within reason why the need to change the whole thing?”
The next hearing on the proposed changes to the land use code is Oct. 20 at 1:30 p.m.