County Planning and Zoning commission discussion sparks confusion, opposition from public
Several residents voiced concern to Moffat County commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 14, over ordinances that were recently introduced, but county officials explained there has been some confusion about the initiatives being discussed.
Moffat County officials said on Wednesday, Feb. 15, that there are two separate discussions happening among the Moffat County Planning and Zoning commission that have caused confusion and sparked concern among residents.
One issue, a junk and rubbish ordinance, was brought up for discussion at the last two Planning and Zoning meetings, though no action was taken. The other item is an update to the International Property Maintenance Code, which regulates the minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings.
Moffat County originally adopted the universal property codes in 2010, but the codes are updated every few years and must be readopted for the updates to take effect. Currently, Moffat County is operating on an earlier set of universal codes than Craig, which uses codes updated in 2018.
Because Marlin Eckhoff serves as building official in a shared position between the city and county, he is constantly having to research the two different sets of codes.
“We have to address the universal building codes and look at whether we are hampering him from doing his job by having two different codes,” Moffat County Commissioner Melody Villard said.
The junk and rubbish ordinance is a separate discussion, but seems to be where much of the public feedback was focused.
County officials confirmed the idea of a junk ordinance has been brought up with previous Planning and Zoning commissioners in the past, but no action has ever been taken.
Villard said Wednesday that a couple of incidents have reignited conversations about a junk ordinance and how it might work for both densely populated areas and for people living in the country.
One of the incidents included a trailer in Shadow Mountain subdivision that led to a structure fire. Villard said there was another property where junk and rubbish was encroaching on another property and contained animals in a commercial zone.
Candace Miller, who joined Moffat County in September as planner and airport manager, said that under current county ordinances, a property owner who has an issue with a neighboring property can submit a complaint. But the county may not be able to help, and there is no process to help get residents resources to help with a junk and rubbish issue.
“I never want to be in that position where I have to tell someone, ‘There is nothing I can do,’“ said Miller. “I am a problem-solver, and I want a process in place where people have a way to express concerns and get connected with resources.”
County officials asked Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume to help research what other counties are doing to handle junk and rubbish, and Villard said the sheriff brought a copy of another jurisdiction’s code to help inform the conversation.
During the Jan. 3 planning and zoning meeting, six to seven community members showed up for public comment, where Miller said a productive conversation was had. The primary concern from residents is that people shouldn’t be told what they can or can’t do with their private property.
“It’s a safety thing more than telling people what they can and can’t do,” Miller said.
Residents voiced opposition toward an ordinance where complaints could lead to the county taking action against a property owner. Villard said the ordinance would not be centered around enforcement, nor would the county hire a code enforcement officer. Instead, the ordinance would be focused on intake and resources for property owners.
Another point that was brought up is that in the absence of an ordinance, private citizens can still take action against neighboring properties in civil suits without the county being involved.
Miller said that doesn’t address a process of getting resources to property owners who do want help fixing issues on their property. There are resources available for vehicle donations, junk removal and assistance with property cleanup, but the county doesn’t currently have a process to field concerns and connect property owners with those resources.
“There hasn’t been a workshop about what a process would look like,” Miller said. “We haven’t had an opportunity to get that far.”
Miller said the Feb. 7 planning and zoning meeting was entirely taken up with public comments with about 13 community members present. The commission did not have a chance to address the other scheduled business on its agenda.
Both Miller and Villard emphasized the value of public feedback and said they don’t want to shut off public discussion. But the February public comment period at planning and zoning meetings may have been less productive.
“This is a sensitive subject and we value people’s opinions,” Miller said. “It’s not something we would pass without thinking. We want to protect everyone’s right wherever we can.”
The junk and rubbish ordinance will not be on the Planning and Zoning agenda for the March meeting, but the commission will be reviewing the universal property codes. Miller said Planning and Zoning commissioners intend to go through the code updates line by line to understand the changes and make sure there are no sections that don’t apply to local areas.
The Moffat County Planning and Zoning commission meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at the Moffat County Courthouse. Meetings and agendas are posted at the courthouse and can be found online at MoffatCounty.Colorado.gov.
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