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Publish Date: 5/25/2005

Public weighs in at land-use forum
Boulder County meeting launches code overhaul


BOULDER — Homeowners, landowners, Realtors, environmentalists and many others with strong opinions about growth restrictions in Boulder County bombarded county commissioners with suggestions at a public hearing Tuesday night.

The meeting kicked off a planned two-year overhaul of the county’s land-use code, which critics have called unfair, complicated and arbitrary.

“We’re looking to make it clearer and easier to understand,” Commissioner Ben Pearlman said before he turned the meeting over to more than 40 members of the public.

Rich Larson of Boulder, and several others, begged the county board to make the code’s language less baffling.

“If you can’t make it so everyone can understand it, make it so lawyers can understand it,” Larson said to laughter from the packed hearing room at the Boulder County Courthouse.

Karen Sheren of Jamestown questioned why the commissioners should be able to dictate so many issues that should be left up to individual residents.

“Private property is private property,” she said to a blast of audience applause. “Property owners should be able to do what they want with their property.”

The land-use code, which sets policies for unincorporated Boulder County, was last updated in 1994. The commissioners will use input from Tuesday’s agenda to schedule future revisions to individual portions of the code.

Stan Huntting, an Allenspark resident who suffered through a lengthy review process while building his home in 1999, said he ultimately came to respect the code’s land-preservation policies.

“The land-use code is at the core of what makes our quality of life in Boulder County,” he said.

Several speakers urged the commissioners to create new rules mandating environmentally friendly construction and energy-efficient new homes. Commissioner Will Toor said he was particularly interested in “green construction” policies.

Many speakers told horror stories about how previous commissioners placed arbitrary restrictions on planned homes in multiple, costly hearings. Others said the public-review process, in which neighborhood residents may fight a new home being built near their property, destroys community relationships.

At the hearing’s conclusion, Commissioner Tom Mayer said he valued public input but was skeptical about anecdotes portraying the land-use code as confusing or unfair.

“There were many stories told here tonight, and a few of them may have been true,” he said.

About 93 percent of county residents would like to see a land-use code that is easier to understand, according to a government sponsored survey of 605 residents released Tuesday.

In the same survey, 37 percent of respondents said county officials allowed too much growth in unincorporated areas, while 43 percent felt the county’s growth regulations were “about right.”

Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at bturner@times-call.com.

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