Zoning commission recommends change

City's landscaping ordinance too restrictive, members say


City officials decided they needed to do something about the city's landscaping ordinance after the owners of a large retail businesses changed their minds about opening in Craig.

Their reason?

The lot development would have cost the owners $80,000 because of landscaping requirements.

Planning and zoning commissioners agreed change was needed but put off making a recommendation the Craig City Council. The board met Monday night to discuss proposed changes to the ordinance.

The proposed changes are less restrictive and are more friendly to developers, City Planning Department Director Dave Costa said.

"The city council expressed concerns that the parking and landscaping ordinance was essentially too restrictive and we were seeing some businesses that might have come to town and didn't," Costa said.

The current ordinance requires that 15 percent of lot be landscaped.

Changes proposed set a percentage of landscaping required by zone. High-density residential zones will continue to be required to install 15 percent of the lot's size in landscaping, but now the square footage of the proposed structure will be deducted from the total. In areas that are zoned business and commercial development, 8 percent landscaping will be required and in industrial zones, 4 percent.

An additional requirement ensures that landscaping is along the property's frontage, giving it more curb appeal.

"I think it's probably the right move at this point in time," Costa said. "We might have been too restrictive in the past."

The ordinance underwent major overhaul in 1998.

Some area contractors say they've lost business because of the landscaping requirements.

"I've had a lot of people who didn't want to pursue building because the landscaping costs were so outrageous," one contractor said.

Craig City Councilor Don Jones took the lead in researching what other cities require in terms of landscaping and is credited for spearheading the changes.

"It's nice to have a landscaping ordinance to get some beautification done, but some feedback I've got from potential businesses is that it's too restrictive," Jones said. "I don't want to see the city lose that type of revenue.'

The proposed requirements are modeled after ordinances in place in Delta and Montrose.

The changes represent a "happy medium" between aesthetic appeal and affordability, planning and zoning commission chairman Jim Meineke said, which is why he supported the changes.

"Developers have said it slowed them down on a lot of things," he said.

Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership Director Tom Flavin says the change speaks to the city's desire to be more competitive with other communities on the issues that draw new businesses.

"Maybe this will be an incentive for new business to come to Craig and encourage businesses to stay in the city and not move into the county." Jones said.

The city council faced that dilemma shortly after the ordinance was revised, MJK Sales and Feed, located near the city limits, had the option of expanding either in the city or in the county.

Where they built was based on how flexible the city was willing to be in its landscaping requirements -- and the City Council voted to be flexible, not wanting to lose the tax revenue.

The planning commission again will discuss the ordinance at a July meeting.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210 or at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com

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