Noticing and single-family reviews to be altered
The Town of Mt. Crested Butte is considering making several changes to its design review process for new buildings and additions, as part of an effort to overhaul the town’s zoning code to better reflect the recently adopted 2007 Community Plan.
The proposed changes to the review process include adding public notice requirements and allowing staff to approve single-family dwellings.
The Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission and Town Council held a joint work session to discuss the proposed changes on Wednesday, January 23.
In a memo to the town’s elected officials, planning consultant Julie Ann Woods said a considerable amount of time is spent in the design review process, "both by staff and the Planning Commission, leaving less time available for long range planning and land use policy/code development."
According to Woods, Mt. Crested Butte community development staff currently reviews all building applications against the town’s design policies, which include both absolute requirements, such as setbacks and open space, and relative policies, such as aesthetic appeal. The town staff then compiles their findings into a report for the Planning Commission to judge during design reviews.
Woods said the town might be able to save planning time if design reviews for single-family homes were conducted as an administrative function of staff.
Planning Commission chairman Dusty Demerson says it makes sense to have staff conduct single-family design reviews from a workflow perspective. "Almost all of them don’t have any outstanding issues. We’re essentially just standing over the staff’s recommendation," Demerson says. "My level of comfort for some time has been high in letting staff deal with those. They’re doing the work anyway," Demerson says.
Community development director Bill Racek says the intent is to give the Planning Commission more time to "focus on more of the long-range and growth kinds of issues the town is facing," such as planned unit developments, annexation proposals, and policy revisions.
Demerson says town staff, individual Planning Commission members, neighbors, or the applicant can still request to have the full Planning Commission conduct a design review under the proposed change.
Another change being proposed is that all design reviews may require official public notice.
According to Woods, design reviews are not required to be posted for public notice ("noticed") in Mt. Crested Butte, but Planning Commission agendas are published in the Crested Butte News and on the town’s website. Additionally, signs announcing a design review are posted on the subject property the Friday before a scheduled review, according to Woods.
"Even with this level of noticing, there have still been complaints that neighbors feel they are ‘blind-sided’ by not being informed about what their neighbor plans to do with their site," Woods wrote.
Woods suggested that public noticing should include the publication of the building elevations in the newspaper, similar to how the Town of Crested Butte notices reviews; direct mail; or by posting signage earlier. Woods said town staff identified direct mailing as the most preferable option.
Under this option, all building applicants would be required to send written notification to adjacent landowners of a pending design review, prior to any reviews being made.
Demerson says requiring public noticing for design reviews is a good idea, but it may not solve any problems without further revisions to the town’s zoning code.
Demerson says the most common complaint is that a neighbor’s building will be too tall, even if the height falls within the town’s design guidelines. "There’s nothing we can do about it. (Noticing) helps to some extent, but we still will have to do something in the town code to use subjective criteria…. Unless we have the teeth to make a change noticing just seems to make people more mad," Demerson says.
The Planning Commission will continue to hold work sessions to discuss changes to the design review process, as well as other changes to the town’s zoning code, but Demerson says he’s not sure when or how the changes will be presented to the Town Council for adoption—as a package or individually.
Demerson says he expects the Town Council will be presented with several proposed changes to the zoning code before the end of the year.