Commission approves new development code
After being in the works for about three years, a revamp of the development code was approved by the Carbon County Commission last Wednesday.
The commissioners had a number of questions about the new code and the public hearing yielded a few comments about several changes.
But Carbon County lawmakers approved the development code unanimously in the end.
"The code we had been using was put in place in December 1981 and it was unwieldy and difficult to use," said Dave Levanger, director of planning and zoning for the county.
The new code is easier to use because it is significantly smaller. Carbon County's new code book is less than one-half an inch thick. The old code was more than three inches thick.
"One of the ways we were able to cut down the size is that we condensed much of the verbiage that described what could be done with certain things into tables that make much more sense," said Gayla Williams, assistant planning and zoning official.
"For instance, set back specifications used to take up pages because each was described for various scenarios. Now they are in one table on one page," pointed out Williams.
Other changes in the county's development code include:
Developing a precise definition and criteria for conditional use permits.
Establishing a process for the county to revoke conditional use permits if necessary.
Clarifying in which zones hotels, motels and apartments could be located.
Outlining the requirements for irrevocable letters of credit rather than using bonds for projects.
The requirements are designed to assure that the money will be in place to finish a project in the event developers are not able to complete the work.
The new code also permits people to build primitive cabins, which were not allowed in the past.
In addition, the guideline allows a place for residents to conduct all legal activities. In the past, if a particular business or land use was not spelled out in the code, a piece of property could not be used for the activity.
Other land uses were also added to the county code. For instance, people who buried pets in private yards were in violation of the old code. The new guideline makes allowance for pet burials and makes having a private airport legal.
The old code prohibited the commercial sake of alfalfa or hay produced on private property. The guideline adopted last week legalizes the agricultural-commercial activity.
The code includes a number of zones that have been renamed and more clearly defined so the uses can be regulated more consistently.
Former critical environment 1 designations are now watershed zones. Areas previously classified as critical environment 2 are now mountain range zones.
Former Scofield Lake 1 designation are now waterfront zones. Areas previously classified as Scofield Lake 2 are now the Pleasant Valley zone.
Another change establishes the right for people to be interred after death on private property, but several criteria are linked to the provision. Burials must be done by professionals and the county must link a geographic position via satellite to the site in order to map where the bodies are interred.
The meeting was well attended, partly due to the fence out provision in the code.
In the past, much of the area has been open range. But in recent years, ranchettes have proliferated and people have bought property to put up cabins.
The situation has resulted in a clash between traditional land use and some of the people who do not want cattle on ranchette properties.
The county's new development code specifies that land owners must put up adequate fences to keep livestock and wild animals off the parcels of private property.
At last week's commission meeting, a number of questions were raised on the subject by local cattle producers. The local residents were concerned that cattle may damage an inadequate fence and the person might make a claim against the livestock producer.
It was also pointed out by the local producers in attendance at the county commission meeting that poor fences can hurt cattle by cutting the animals or making livestock fall.
"The code is written so to address the problem of poor fences that could injure animals," noted Levanger. "It addresses weak fences and to low of fences."
But a number of residents in the audience were still concerned with what might happen on either side in the event a related problem should occur in the future.
"I think that would fall under civil litigation if someone has a claim," indicated George Harmond, deputy county attorney.
Several other questions regarding the new development code came from Carbon resident Kathy Taylor.
"My main concern is with the C-1 and C-2 zoning," commented the resident. "I worry about how things are defined between the two. It looks as if they allow the same things."
"How do I know that if a warehouse is built at a location, dangerous materials won't be stored in it?" inquired Taylor.
"Also, I am concerned about what kinds of construction companies are allowed under C-1 and what is allowed under C-2. I think all these things just need clarification."
Levanger told the residents at the gathering that various regulations prevent warehouses from storing certain things in various areas.
The county planning and zoning director also pointed out that only certain kinds of construction fit into the C-1 category, while others were fitted for the C-2 zone.
"I just think that heavy construction should be in the industrial zone instead," Taylor noted.
"There needs to be a fine line. But I am concerned that this new code is not specific enough," continued Taylor.
Commissioners were sensitive to her questions, but also saw that the code needs room to work.
"Actually, while this is not as specific as the old code, the intent is written into it," explained Burge. "That intent will help the commission to make decisions."
But construction in commercial zones bordering Carbon County residents homes was not only Taylor's concern, but also that of Darwin Hunt.
Hunt works for Henry Construction, a company that presently exists alongside county homes.
"I have had experience with many large companies in commercial zones," explained Hunt. "All kinds of businesses exist in these zones. Being obtrusive to neighbors is not what most of these companies want to do. We are sensitive to that."
"Besides, for most construction companies, the heavy equipment is out on the job and not in the yard most of the time, unless it is down or being repaired. It's just a matter of coming and going," continued Hunt.
Troy Hunt also commented to the commission about being sensitive to existing businesses and making sure they would not be affected by such zoning changes.
"The owners of land and buildings can not be deprived of their conditions when they were approved under a different set of codes or conditions," Levanger explained to the concerned county resident. "These changes will not affect your business."
After the public hearing portion of the meeting, the county commission members decided to take the comments made under advisement and looked at some small changes in order to clarify areas of confusion.
In the end, the county commission panel adopted the new code following a brief review and with minor changes in place.