County Update: How the county regulates land use
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Many of our citizens don’t fully understand the distinction between county government and that of the city of Steamboat Springs and the towns of Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa. Last month, Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton wrote an excellent column describing the statutory responsibilities of county government, and this month, I would like to describe the role Routt County plays in regulating land use in the unincorporated parts of the county.
First, it is important to understand that Colorado counties derive their land use authority from the Colorado Constitution and that authority extends only to the areas of the county outside the incorporated communities. Each of these municipalities exercises its own authority over land use within its boundaries.
Routt County adopted a zoning resolution and subdivision regulations in 1972, as required by law, and a master plan in 1980. The Routt County Planning Department, Planning Commission and the board of commissioners review applications for development to ensure compliance and update these regulations on an ongoing basis.
As growth and increased recreation and tourism assumed an increasingly important place in the county’s economy, it became apparent that future land use planning needed to be guided by an updated master plan. That plan was adopted in April 2003 by the Routt County Planning Commission and ratified by the Routt County Board of County Commissioners. The plan gives broad recommendations for use of land in the county, and it’s made to provide flexible guidance rather than rigid control. It addresses county-wide issues, problems and policies.
Routt County’s master plan is based upon guiding principles that address growth, rural development, environmental impacts, recreation and tourism, mineral resources, wildlife, agricultural lands, transportation and housing. Routt County’s planning philosophy is that growth in the county should be consistent with its rural character and not promote sprawl. The plan supports interconnected open lands to protect its rural character, ensures development will not degrade wildlife habitat, encourages flexible transportation alternatives and supports housing opportunities in designated growth centers.
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Central to the county’s philosophy is the preservation of open space and our traditional rural agricultural lifestyle. The landscape we enjoy today is the result of those values and is supported by our Purchase of Development Rights program. We direct most residential and commercial development into our municipalities while helping sustain our ranchers and farmers. Routt County continues to attract new residents and visitors that appreciate open spaces adding vitality to our economy and culture.
Routt County’s zoning regulations provide for a wide variety of land uses depending upon zone district. Mining, oil and gas development, bed and breakfasts, home industries, secondary units, campgrounds/RV parks, guest ranches, recreational facilities, cell phone towers and many other uses are allowed under certain conditions and levels of review and permitting.
Routt County has created a simple two page Planning Department Land Use Process Companion that can be filled out with basic information about a project that an applicant might want to pursue. This form can then be reviewed by our administrative review team with the purpose of providing some clarity as to the framework, timeframe and different factors involved with a land use decision.
The Routt County commissioners remain committed to upholding the ideals of our master plan while allowing for appropriate development. Please contact our Planning Department with any questions about development in Routt County.
Tim Corrigan serves District 1 on the Routt County Board of Commissioners. “County Update” is a monthly column that will rotate between the county’s three commissioners.
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