Town of Bayfield and La Plata County officials met June 11 to discuss a joint planning agreement for development on lands near the town.
"We want to get ahead of the game, manage growth before it happens, make sure there's a good decision-making process, whatever that process ends up to be, workable for both the town and county," Bayfield Mayor Rick Smith said. "I don't want staff over-burdened with extra steps that don't make sense. We don't want to be hasty, but we don't want it to sit on the back burner either."
Town Manager Chris La May added, "In this area, we aren't facing tremendous growth pressure, but we are expecting more activity and we'd like to have our house in order."
He stressed the desire to have commercial development in town, not nearby on unincorporated land. "We'd like to protect commercial property tax and sales tax. If it happens in the county, that's detrimental to the town."
County Commissioner Julie Westendorff commented that the county gets the same property and sales tax whether a commercial development is in town limits or not.
Another goal, La May said, is to avoid having properties develop near town with infrastructure that isn't to town standards and then wanting to annex, "that if we annex property, we aren't taking on a financial burden, that the infrastructure is quality."
Access to central water and sewer service is the main incentive for properties to annex. Gem Village and the Homestead Trails subdivision already have sewer service from before the town took over the system from the now-defunct Bayfield Sanitation District.
Smith said the La Plata/Archuleta Water District (LAPLAWD) "is what's forcing the issue." Their water line goes south on County Road 509 from Bayfield Parkway, west on CR 510, and is working toward the Oxford area and the west end of CR 510. "When they make the turn and come back (along Highway 160) to Gem Village, they'll ask, 'What do you want to do?' and we'll have to have an answer," Smith said, meaning whether the town will provide water service there or let LAPLAWD do it.
County Planning Director Damian Peduto said, "The issue comes up when they (properties) don't meet the minimum criteria for annexation but they want the service. That's where implied consent comes in," an agreement to annex when the property becomes eligible.
Another issue is when new developments will be required to hook onto central water or sewer. That's reqired by the county for water and the state for sewer if the project is within 400 feet of a central system.
Westendorff cited the county's joint plannng agreement with Durango for the La Posta Road area. "The friction points are right at the interface of services," such as an existing business that wanted to expand within 400 feet of a service line but had no need for the service. She gave storage units as an example.
Smith said, "There are unforeseen consequences to everything you do. ... We have a waiver process. Not all rules fit across the board. I assume we'd put those (waivers) into the IGA (inter-governmental agreement)."
Peduto noted that waivers are different from variances, which require a hardship situation. Requiring infrastructure to be built to town standards right at the edge of town is one thing, "but how about the guy out on the fringe" of the joint planning area, he asked. The county has transitionaal area development standards (TADS) that apply county-wide, he said.
Westendorff raised the issue of marijuana businesses. Town trustees have voted not to allow either medical or recreational marijuana businesses in town. The county has agreed to abide by that in the town's area of influence. "There's the three-mile buffer," Westenddorff said. "We've had people within those three miles who said, 'Why is my ability to use my property being interfered with by a jurisdiction that I'm not subject to?'"
Westendorff said she's not "proposing to re-create the IGA with Durango here. Use some (of it) if it makes sense, tweak it."
Smith said, "Concentrating on the areas we're in agreement is a great place to start. I don't think we'll have as many rough edges as you did with Durango. It's not in our best interests or the county's interest to have friction." He cited the highway access plan agreement worked out with the Colorado Department of Transportation over the past couple years. That had been a source of friction going back to the 1990s.
Meeting participants discussed a land use map showing land that's not in town but is included in the town's comprehensive plan for potential development, and a larger area where the town might provide water service. That larger area could define the joint land use planning area, county planning staffer Daniel Murray said. That could change as this process goes along, and with participation of affected land owners.
County manager Joe Kerby said, "The public process is really important going forward."
Participants debated whether to create a rough draft IGA for the public to respond to, or just show them the map of land that might be included. They discussed an open house format as was used for the highway access plan.
"From my perspective, the municipality drives this," Westendorff said. She suggested the people on the outer edge of the proposed joint planning area will be the ones to show up at meetings.
Peduto said they'll want to know, "'What good does it do me for you to take over my property?' You'll have to be prepared to answer that."