Council talks long-term issues

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At a glance

• During the city of Craig's 2009 budget meeting, officials also discussed long-term priorities.

• After the city's planning and zoning process was called into question, officials identified development regulations as a key area to examine and refine if necessary.

• City councilors also said they believe the city should take a position to pave every street within city limits "no matter what it takes."

Craig City councilors, the mayor, city department heads and city staff talked about more than numbers during a seven-hour budget session Thursday.

Extended discussion topics included whether and how the city should refine its planning and zoning process and a strong push to begin paving all streets within city limits.

For planning and zoning, the 30-odd city officials were torn between whether the city needed to refine its process or whether it needed to do more community education on just what the rules and regulations are.

Planning and zoning

After a recent tour, representatives of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade recommended the city and county refine their planning requirements. They cited government planning as a potential barrier to business and economic development.

During open forum meetings, the city was criticized for having regulations and requirements that are too stringent.

One solution mentioned was an easy-to-read checklist of requirements for developers so projects don't get delayed.

"We have a checklist for people already," Mayor Don Jones said.

Community Development Director Dave Costa, whose job includes approving building plans, said every developer gets the checklist when they come into his office.

"Sometimes people don't understand what they're given," he said. "It could be a communication problem between what I'm saying and what they hear."

Another common complaint is the city's contractor licensing test, which any builder must pass to work in Craig, no matter their professional experience.

The test has held up recent developments, notably construction on the Hampton Inn, because contractors couldn't pass the test.

Councilor Bill Johnston said, and others agreed, the city should look into whether Craig is an "oddity" for instituting such a requirement or if it is common practice.

"But I like the quality control aspect," Johnston said, supporting others' statements that an experienced contractor should be able to pass a largely open-book test.

But if Craig is an oddity, Councilor Gene Bilodeau said, city officials should be open to changing things. Uncommon requirements will make the town less attractive to developers, he said.

Government progress

The biggest issue as far as the city budget is concerned, however, is whether the city should assume more financial responsibility for infrastructure development, such as roads and utilities.

The first thing developers ask, City Engineer Bill Earley said, is what the city will do for infrastructure.

"There are really high cost issues," Earley said, adding it would be a minimum of $500,000 to expand water lines. "These little, smaller subdivisions can't do that."

Earley recommended the city look at immediate actions to resolve the issue one way or the other, to help developers more or not.

"I think there's something of a political issue here we really need to bring to a head," he said.

The mayor added that the city does invest money to expand infrastructure each year, including close to $9 million spent on a new water treatment plant. The city also installs new and larger water lines when it resurfaces city streets, Jones said.

City officials said they need to meet with county representatives soon to talk about development issues. The governments should work out a system to plan for development in the county but near city limits, because that is where most new growth will occur, city officials said.

City streets

Councilor Joe Herod has changed his mind.

Whereas before he did not support a push from other councilors to pave gravel roads in Craig, he does now.

"Here we want everyone to have a perception of our community as a place to come and live," Herod said.

"But there is a dirt road right in the middle of town," the mayor added, referring to Steele Street off West Victory Way.

Streets haven't been paved in the past because of money. The city requires residences or businesses located on a gravel street to help pay for the cost of paving.

Maybe that's not going to cut it anymore, Herod said.

"At this point, if we need to suck it up, we need to suck it up," he said.

If no one wants to pay, the city should go in and do it anyway, Jones said.

Councilors and the mayor asked city staff to prepare a plan for how the city could pave all streets within city limits and how much it would cost.

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