What are 'open spaces?'


What should “open space” requirements be in a land famed for its big skies and distant horizons? The question was one of the main animating forces of a 90-minute Saratoga Planning Commission meeting attended by about five. Though little was voted on, discussion was far-ranging at the Nov. 8 meeting.

Open space ordinances are municipal codes that mandate a certain percentage of new developments be set aside for park space or green belts. Whether or not Saratoga’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) process should include such a provision was the subject of some lengthy talk at the working session. The PUD process is currently undergoing an extensive rewrite under the care of commission member Karl Smith.

“Ive seen (open space law) used, abused (and) thrashed around every which way,” Smith said. He noted that while he had seen some communities implement open space mandates successfully, he had also seen the areas become untaxable revenue holes.

“You could end up owning 15 parks some day,” said Carbon County Commissioner Sue Jones, attending as a guest. Commission member Chris Duke said the requirement could effectively present a double down side, with the town collecting no property taxes on the real estate and also assuming an additional upkeep burden.

“I have an instinctive revulsion to (developers) dedicating that, or giving that to the public,” commission member Rusty Rogers said.

In the “items from the public” section of the meeting, local resident Andy Van Tol questioned commission members about how long the zoning officer position would stay vacant. Former zoning officer Kent Smith quit the position following the commission’s August meeting, and no one has yet filled the job.

“(The vacancy) is something that the mayor and I and several of the council members have been talking about for the past couple weeks,” commission member (and town council member) Will Faust told Van Tol. Given the sensitive and personal nature of peoples’ homes, Faust said “It takes the right person for that position.” He said he hoped after the elections new blood will help with the search for a new zoning officer.

The commission continues to close in on a final draft of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Carbon County over new boundaries for the town’s area of influence. The area of influence is space outside of town limits where municipal codes are still enforced. Faust said he would be meeting with mayor Ed Glode and the town attorney so that language for the MOU could be finalized. Commissioner Jones and Erik DeVaun, representing Carbon County Planner Sid Fox, said the county was receptive to the new influence area boundaries as proposed in draft.

The next meeting of the Saratoga Planning Commission will be 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at the town hall building.


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