County officials disagree over master plan

Several changes are being made to the proposed Moffat County/City of Craig Master Plan, but including the county's land use plan as volume two of the document is not going to be one of them -- an issue that might come to a head at a master plan public meeting tonight.

At a master plan steering committee meeting in January, members of the Moffat County Land Use Board asked that the recently completed Moffat County Land Use Plan be included in the master plan. At that point it was decided the plan would become a second volume to the master plan.

"When federal agencies write their own plans, they look to a county's master plan to incorporate that county's concerns," said Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resource Director. "I think there's some concern (over the plan not being included)."

He doesn't believe referring to the land use plan in the master plan will be as effective as including it as a second volume.

Jean Stetson, member of the Moffat County Land Use Board, has already protested the removal of the land use plan from the master plan and will attend Tuesday's meeting to fight to have it included.

"It was my understanding that this plan would be tailored to the whole county and since one-half of the county is federal land and our county is so dependent on our need to use public lands, it's a huge piece of the puzzle."

Stetson said it was always the intent of the county commissioners and the land use board to include the land use plan in the master plan.

"That's the reason we went through the process," she said. "We feel it's very important to (the master plan) be comprehensive."

Plan revisions, which will be presented to the public tonight, don't include the land use plan because the county's consultant, Martin Landers, recommended it be left out and be kept as reference material, eliminating the possibility of many attached volumes to the plan.

"It is my opinion professionally that the master plan should be a document all its own and refer to any other supporting documents," said Sue Graler, Moffat County planning director. "The master plan as it is addresses the public lands in one of its plan areas."

Graler said including the land use plan opens the debate for other city and county plans to be attached to the document.

Another change to the master plan was the product of several comments from steering committee members and the public. A portion in the introduction stating the document "is advisory in nature" will be bolded in the final draft. Several people wanted it stated clearly that the plan did not create policy and would only be used as a guide in creating policy.

The biggest change, Graler believes, is a proposal to change agricultural zoning to refer to tracts of 35 acres and more and allowing properties zoned as agricultural to have secondary residences only by special permit.

The plan discourages the subdivision of platted parcels that are 35 acres and larger in existing residential subdivisions.

County officials got no comments on the conflict between agricultural and residential zoning on Thompson Hill, so took the bull by the horns in determining how to deal with that mixed-use development.

The master plan calls for the county to foster compatibility between rural residential and agricultural land use activities by updating its zoning codes to address density, use, animals and other rural residential issues and update zoning resolutions to recognize the difference between residential development associated with agriculture, rural residential subdivisions with lots greater than 35 acres and rural residential subdivisions with lots less than 35 acres.

County officials have been searching for a remedy on Thompson Hill where residents are complaining about a neighbor who raises sheep in what is now a residential neighborhood.

"There needs to be more clarification for the allowable and accessory uses in those zones," Graler said. "The way to do this is to review the current zoning and get people involved who are affected by living in those zones."

Another change to the plan includes investigating the opportunity to preserve ranches and farms through conservation easements, the creation of a Transferable Development Rights (TDR) Program and the creation of a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program.

"There was not a lot of public discussion about this," Graler said. "These are just suggestions or possibilities to be thought about."

TDR and PDR programs are designed to preserve agricultural and open space areas and have been very successful in slowing sprawl.

"Personally I think it would be a long time before the residents of Moffat County would agree to these types of restraints of personal property rights," she said.

City officials made several suggestions for changes to the plan, most of which were incorporated, said Craig City Council member Don Jones.

Jones, who sits on the master plan steering committee submitted a list of proposed changes including eliminating a request for the adoption of a Uniform Fire Code, which is both expensive and time-consuming -- something the city doesn't have the manpower for.

The plan called for the city to prepare an inventory of existing platted and unplatted vacant lands, an inventory of substandard structures and a program for rehabilitation of substandard structures, all have which have been deleted, also because of a lack of manpower and funding.

Also deleted was a direction that called for the completion of a feasibility study for a passenger rail between Craig and Steamboat Springs. Jones called the proposal a "pipe dream."

The master plan still calls for the city to "define and initiate all achievable physical improvement and streetscape projects" and review and update its Civic Improvement Plan, directions Jones said are good in theory, but that are too high dollar for any achievable goals.

"It is always good to have a wish list, maybe some day the city or county will have a windfall in taxes or grants and need to spend the money," he said. "Streetscape would be the perfect place. Right now it is just a wish list."

The county will also look at establishing a joint review between the city and county for development in the urban development boundary, but will not likely form a joint planning commission, something Jones said is disappointing.

He said it would take some time on both sides part to sit down and develop some standards that would work for both city and county, but it would be a great tool for future growth.

"This plan is no different than the 1982 plan, in fact it is more vague," he said. "At least in the 1982 plan, we had some guidelines in urban development area, even though they were never used because they were never adopted. In the new plan they've been completely eliminated."

Jones said he doesn't know why that was.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210, or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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