County approves lower maximum house size in LUR

Large buildings will require minor impact review

[ By Katherine Nettles ]

Gunnison County has lowered how large a new home can be without an additional level of review from the county planning department. On Tuesday, September 21 county commissioners unanimously approved a new cap of 5,000 square feet for an individual residence and 7,000 square feet in aggregate building size without requiring a minor impact review that includes a public hearing, water studies and other considerations. The vote came after a public hearing earlier this month and prior months of engagement with the public, the planning commission and the county planning department.

Commissioners Liz Smith and Roland Mason stated their final thoughts on the matter before voting, and read a statement from commissioner chair Jonathan Houck, who was not in attendance due to a scheduling conflict with a public lands meeting. There was no public comment during this portion of the process.

“I think we’ve gone through this several times and were able to make our positions during the public hearing pretty well known,” said Smith. “There can be a little bit of strife going through a change like this, but really the way that our community is changing, I think this is a responsive and responsible way to ensure thoughtful growth in the community.

“Very few homes, as the staff presentation and data reflect, are actually going to be affected by this change,” added Smith.

She said that while understanding that not everybody is going to be happy with the decision, she felt it aligns with a general consensus “related to climate change and just the growth of a small, rural community… I see this as a really important step toward what we do over the next couple decades, not just the next couple years,” she concluded.

Commissioner Mason said he could live with the compromise reached after repeated discussions that began with a smaller cap of 4,200 square feet. “I was the one pushing for a little bit higher square footage,” he acknowledged. But he said he was comfortable with the compromise reached in the past few weeks.

“I want to make clear again to the public that we aren’t putting hard caps on housing numbers; we’re just saying there’s going to be another layer of review in the minor review process.”

He also noted that of the recent homes going through that minor impact review, “None of them were denied…there is still an opportunity to put those [larger homes] in and get those built.”

Mason also noted that the Gunnison County Land Use Resolution (LUR) is a living document, and there is an opportunity in the future to revisit the process if it is too cumbersome. “I’m comfortable with where we are right now,” he said, and expressed appreciation for the county staff and planning commission for taking the task on at the commissioners’ request.

Smith read commissioner Houck’s statement of support as well. “I feel moving the square footage requirements back to levels that closely mirror the original LUR metrics is warranted and appropriate at this time.”

The amendment is effective immediately and does not apply to any previously submitted applications.

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