by Lynn Burton, Staff Writer : August 5, 2002
In an effort to preserve open space and enhance wildlife habitat, Garfield County is considering a subdivision regulation change to allow cluster residential development on parcels smaller than two acres.
“We’ve got to break out of the mold of cookie cutter, two-acre lots in rural subdivision requests,” said Randy Russell, Garfield County’s senior long range planner.
“Taking a parcel that was previously agricultural, and carving that into slices to maximize the number of new lots ignores other values on the site and jeopardizes the historic agricultural infrastructure in the area,” he said.
Russell said the new regulations are primarily meant for parcels 40 to 80 acres in size in the agricultural/residential/rural density, residential limited, and agricultural/industrial zone districts. Most subdivisions that carve agricultural land into two-acre lots are in the Rifle, Silt and Battlement Mesa area.
“We’ve seen a real flurry of uninspired development proposals,” Russell said.
Garfield County’s minimum lot size is two acres. The only way to build on smaller lots is for the developer to submit a planned unit development (PUD) proposal, which can be expensive and time consuming.
“This proposal is for smaller developers, not well-heeled, deep-pocket developers,” Russell said.
Russell stressed the proposal is not down zoning, which reduces the amount of development that can occur on a parcel.
“The developer will get the same number of lots, and actually some additional lots, depending on the amount of open space preserved,” Russell said. “We’re still working on incentives, and that is why we’re going very public with this proposed change, to solicit all possible public input.”
The proposal allows for lots as small as a half acre where homes share sanitary disposal systems, and three-quarters of an acre where individual septic systems are proposed.
As for environmental concerns, Russell said there currently is a financial incentive for developers to maximize their number of lots without sensitivity to drainages, wetlands, views, existing vegetation, access points and potential amenities such as trails and open space.
The proposal would also address public safety issues.
“Despite clear direction to the contrary in county regulations, many proposals are offered in the sketch plan phase with minimal road development and proposals for dead end, cul de sac roads extending 1,000 feet or more into the subdivision,” Russell said. “This represents a fire hazard and emergency services concern.”
Existing regulations that allow for development on less than two acres require a site-specific, planned unit development that often includes several zone districts.
“PUDs were designed to allow for mixed use and are essentially a rezoning. Clustering of residential units represents only a concentration (of housing),” Russell said.
Russell has drafted a working paper to explain the subdivision changes. It is available at the Garfield County planning office and on the Garfield County website at www.garfield-county.com, under the building and planning section.
The planning department will accept comments on the subdivision proposal through Aug. 15. The planning and zoning commission will review the proposal on Wednesday, Sept. 11. Russell said he expects the proposal to go to the county commissioners in October and, if approved, it could become effective in November.