Meeting called to order by Chairman Dan Rosales. Pledge of allegiance and roll call followed. All nine PC members present.
No staff report or Consent Agenda. No meeting minutes to approve. No public comment.
Zoning Regulation Amendments:
-New part II, section 27, Economic Development Zone (EDZ) overlay district. Creating process to utilize EDZ - currently non-existent in zoning regs. Four step process: step 1 - PC to make recommendation to BOCC to promote economic activity and mixed uses along select roadway corridors (BOCC will hold hearing at 1PM land use meeting); step 2 - rezone overlay district ‘over’ the existing underlying zone district (does not change underlying zoning); step 3 - begin notification process; step 4 - conduct public hearings in accordance with notification procedure to decide where overlay will be placed. Currently at step 1. There will be a list of permitted uses; other uses would require Use by Special Review. Plan to finish process June 2018. EDZ would encompass a large corner of the NW corner of EC, along highway 24, along the Kiowa-Bennett Rd and along I-70 in EC. Includes Rd. 158, Rd. 166, Delbert Rd. and Rd. 13.
Sam Albrecht, County Manager, reported on Gallagher Amendment; this relates to EC and the EDZ because we need more commercial development to better balance tax receipts between residential and commercial.
Newest Planning Commission member, Linda Kraussert, was introduced. (Editorial comment: this position was filled with no posting of an opening on the PC; therefore, no applications were taken by the county commissioners before this appointment was made....per county response to Open Records Request for posting and application/resume)
Public Comment on EDZ: Heather Lively spoke on behalf of the Elizabeth Planning Commission. The EDZ encroaches on the inter-governmental agreement (which provides for 3 mile radius around Elizabeth) between the county and the town of Elizabeth; could adversely impact the town. Concerned about groundwater usage and potential contamination of septic systems. Grace Erickson, Community Developer for Town of Elizabeth, spoke about inconsistency of EDZ with town plans. Would like to have meeting between Town of Elizabeth and county commissioners prior to the next BOCC meeting. Jim Lumen asked for clarification of EDZ - would like to see details of proposal (diagrams, maps, etc.). TJ Steck, Elizabeth Fire Chief, representing all 7 fire districts, spoke of need for EDZ due to budget shortfalls in fire departments because of lack of commercial. However, the fire departments were not included in referral process - only received packet the afternoon of the PC meeting. Steck asked PC to delay decision until all fire chiefs can review. Mentioned potential zoning conflicts with proposed EDZ. Fire code requirements need to be assessed before decision is made. If the county won’t delay their decision, the fire chiefs will oppose the EDZ at this time. Ward Van (who didn’t know his address) spoke in favor of overlay zone; plans to try to develop property west of Kiowa - bring manufacturing to EC; wants to be first commercial applicant.
Staff response to public comment: Baseline engineer - EDZ process will be embedded in zoning regs; code enforcement provisions (violations and penalties) included in proposed regs; has no objections to allowing more time for consideration. Albrecht - would like to strengthen IGA with Elizabeth; does not believe the IGA is violated with this EDZ as proposed.
PC response: Brian Harris suggested that this decision be delayed since many referral agencies were not contacted; Baseline stated that they didn’t notify fire districts, water districts, etc. because they only deal with zoning. Fire districts were only notified one day before this hearing. Paula Wilderman asked that a referral be sent to sheriff. Bob Lewis asked what the process will be to facilitate working with Elizabeth. Albrecht said the county would “formalize” meetings with Elizabeth - start putting commercial within 1 mile range, then 2 miles, then 3 miles (of Elizabeth) to make it easier for Elizabeth to develop infrastructure. Wants to add to/put appendix on IGA. Staff claims that county attorney has advised that the EDZ is all OK as proposed. Tonight’s meeting packet, in its entirety, is not yet on county website. Ron Turner asked for clarification with numbering of sections in zoning regs. Dan Michalak asked when staff wants a vote. Albrecht wants vote now with maps, etc. to be presented at a future meeting. Ron Turner pointed out that maps were included in tonight’s packet; Baseline stated that no legal descriptions are on maps. Dan Rosales asked what happens if inadequate water exists for fire districts in EDZ, and it’s already been approved. Michalak asked to delay the voting; EDZ “not quite ready for prime time.” Baseline tried to rush the process, stating that accommodations could be made to expedite. Linda Kraussert said that we need to “get the ball rolling” on the EDZ. Rosales stated that he didn’t see conflicts between town of Elizabeth and the EDZ. Town of Elizabeth planner expressed disagreement with this assessment. Paula Wilderman suggested that the EDZ be “reformed” (outside of the 3 miles) until agreement with Elizabeth is reached so as not to violate their Master Plan; EC agreed to the IGA and needs to respect Elizabeth’s Master Plan. PC members only received referrals today. Baseline tried to say that it could take a long time to amend an IGA. Bob Lewis said this EDZ is “long overdue” and “there are a few wrinkles,” but a decision needs to be made now; input from agencies will “flow in.” Lewis made a motion that the EDZ be approved. Amended motion to include conditions of approval that requires meeting with referral agencies. Vote on amendment: unanimous approval. Vote on motion: unanimous approval.
Editorial comment #2: So the Planning Commission has approved recommending the EDZ for approval by the BOCC.....in spite of incomplete documents, lack of feedback from referral agencies due to inadequate review time (as well as key referral agencies not being advised of the application), the PC only receiving documents today, lack of documents available on the county website, potential conflict with Town of Elizabeth IGA......etc. etc. etc.
-Revision to Part 1, Section 6, Rezoning Procedures/Requirements.
Motion to approve/unanimous approval as presented with minor language change. Lack of transparency - no documents provided to public at this public hearing nor were documents put on PowerPoint/overhead presentation for viewing.
-Revision to Part 1, Section 7, Enforcement of the Zoning Regulations.
Again, no documents provided to public (see above for lack of transparency).
Public Comment on Enforcement: John Dorman spoke to the code enforcement of zoning regulations; proposal is “very weak” on details (previous regs were more detailed). Still no procedure in proposed amendment for enforcing regs. Dorman has put together a document of procedures to put “teeth” into enforcement. Gave copies of his proposal to PC.
PC comments: Ron Turner suggested change in wording to require legal authority to inspect property. Motion approved with minor wording changes. Baseline will review/incorporate recommendations from citizen John Dorman.
Final editorial comment: It appeared, a few times during the meeting, that some Planning Commission members were actually going to do the right thing by respecting the Town of Elizabeth’s IGA and delaying the vote until the many unanswered issues were addressed. But alas, bullying tactics prevailed and all PC members voted unanimously to rush into a decision that could have serious implications for the future of Elbert County. Not that commercial development isn’t needed or desirable, but this mad rush to approve an incomplete proposal smacks of incompetency and ineffectual leadership.
Public hearing closed.
Next PC meeting 2/20/18; agenda - solar farm public hearing. Following meeting will be 3/5/18.
Comments from attendees about the meeting found on social media
"The fix is in. They have an agenda. And it doesn't include protecting our way of life."
"My sense was that the majority of the PC members had no working knowledge of what an IGA actually does..."
"I smell yet another lawsuit brewing if the BOCC approves this."
"We were amazed that didn't bring up the subject that there were no documents online. During the break we spoke to one of the commissioners and he brushed it off..."
"We are beginning to see the impact of a singular point-of-view on the process and decision making of this Planning Commission. It may grease the wheels for the BOCC’s “agenda,” yet leaves input from other perspectives out of the deliberations..."