Pitkin County is preparing to launch a reassessment of its growth management system for the second time in two years.
The first effort at assessing and altering its land use code bogged down in 2020 when “COVID consumed much of the community’s capacity” and further studies were required, according to a memo from the staff to the county commissioners. Now the effort is gearing back up with a goal of having numerous meetings by a steering committee, getting input from municipalities and neighborhood caucuses and holding public input sessions. The goal is to have recommendations ready for review by the county Planning and Zoning Commission and the county commissioners by early 2023.
County officials vowed last week not to allow the process to drag on for a couple of years. The county budgeted $350,000 for “growth management outreach” in 2022.
One of the biggest challenges is expected to be appointing a community steering committee. A group of 20 to 25 members will be sought through an application process.
Commissioner Greg Poschman said during a board discussion last week that the county must cast a broad net to get diverse representation on the advisory committee.
“We’re going to have to convince them this is really important,” Poschman said.
Applications could be available through the county website as soon as June 1. If there is a flood of applicants, the county staff will likely winnow the pool down to finalists. The commissioners will make the final appointments.
The staff memo said applicants will be sought from the construction industry, real estate community, land-use planners and attorneys, people working in the fields of climate change and energy, residential property owners from various geographic areas, farmers and ranchers, ecologists, property managers and “youth representatives.”
“The purpose of it is to engage different community members that have different perspectives,” said Cindy Houben, community development director.
Serving on the committee will be a big commitment. It is anticipated the committee will meet every other week for six months starting in July.
County efforts to engage volunteers on big-picture efforts have proved successful before. More than 160 people applied a couple of years ago to participate in a “visioning” committee working on Aspen-Pitkin County Airport issues.
“That shows you what people think is important in this community,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper.
County Manager Jon Peacock said the committee approach is important because the county government wants compromises crafted by the community. The county staff could propose growth management revisions for review by the commissioners, but it wouldn’t be as effective, he said. The regular public hearing process — where citizens are typically allowed to speak for no more than three minutes — would be inadequate for the topic, Peacock said. Committee deliberations, in theory, allow people to drop their individual interests and pursue directions that benefit the community, he said.
“Not everyone’s going to like (the result) no matter what,” Peacock said.
The growth management revisit is important because it could result in wholesale changes in unincorporated Pitkin County ranging from house-size restrictions to how transferable development rights are handled.
A key goal, according to Houben’s presentation to the commissioners, will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90% from the 2019 level by 2050 while maintaining a resilient and vibrant economy.