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This is part two of a series. Land use cases are among the most important decisions that county commissioners make. These decisions have long-term impacts on the communities affected by the …
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This is part two of a series.
Land use cases are among the most important decisions that county commissioners make. These decisions have long-term impacts on the communities affected by the decisions, and some of them have significant impacts on the entire county. Development decisions often bring about passionate and emotional debate and can polarize the community.
Commissioners, just like everyone else, have individual opinions about development in general and development in specific areas in particular. Unfortunately there is seldom consensus on land use cases either among residents or county commissioners.
Individuals’ views run the gamut from no growth is acceptable to private property owners should be able to do whatever they wish with their property. Commissioners are left to make decisions that will please some and disappoint others.
These decisions go to the core of our values as a community and involve complicated legal issues. It is important that the board knows the desires of our citizens about the long-term direction of the county. The survey that will arrive at your house in a few weeks will contain questions that will help clarify the values held by the community and help the board learn what residents prefer when it comes to certain growth policies.
The Countywide Master Plan certified by the Planning Commission in 2003 made major steps toward identifying those values. However, while master plans are very useful in identifying values, they tend to be short on specific detail and oftentimes include conflicting possible outcomes for development or preservation. Regional master plans, like the recently completed Floyd Hill plan, are designed to dig deeper into the details. But, as we have seen, consensus can be difficult to obtain.
The values we attempt to balance in a land use case include: legal issues, financial impacts (both costs and revenue potential), public safety, private property rights, impacts on the community (both local and countywide), environmental concerns, economic impacts, consistency with the current built environment, integration into the character of the community, protection of our history, job creation opportunities, and impacts on infrastructure including roads, water and wastewater.
Once the legal issues are understood — and it is very important that our decisions be grounded in reasonable and defensible interpretations of the rules — land use cases often come down to the competing prioritization of these values. That prioritization results in the “quality of life” that a community offers its residents and visitors. One of the goals of our upcoming survey is to get a sense of the way our citizens prioritize these issues.
It is very important that the commissioners understand the views of a wide cross-section of our residents when we are considering land use applications. The decisions have long-term consequences regarding not only how a particular place might change or evolve but also how the county will be able to provide expected services in the future. We hope all of you will participate in the countywide survey when you receive it.
Visit www.co.clear-creek.co.us for more information on this topic.
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