Zoning change spurs complex discussion

The Board of Carbon County Commissioners hear public opinions on a zoning change for Blackhall Minor Subdivision near Riverside

Hard questions regarding zoning were grappled with at the June 4 meeting of the Board of Carbon County Commissioners (BOCC).

During the meeting, the commissioners held a public hearing regarding a zone change for the Blackhall Minor Subdivision near Riverside. The 40-acre area was originally zoned as ranching, agriculture and mining (RAM) before being redesignated as residential (RD-10) in 1982.

The requested zone change in the June 4 meeting was from RD-10 to residential (RD), which would allow the lot to be subdivided and allow more houses to be built. According to the zone change case file, “The RD Zone is to provide land for residential development that is typically single family detached and located within Town Expansion Areas and within or nearby Rural Centers. Residential single family zones are intended to be located in areas planned for residential development that are easily accessible and infrastructure already exists or is readily available.”

In addition to the lot change, the lot was requested to be split into three sub-lots.

A previous public hearing for the zone change was held by the Carbon County Planning and Zoning Commission (CCPZC) on May 6. The CCPZC unanimously voted to recommend the zoning change for approval.

Public citizen comments about the zone change were largely in opposition. Major issues raised were increased traffic, detrimental effects on wildlife, light pollution and increased noise. In total, 15 separate comments were read during the meeting from letters and emails sent in opposition.

Outside of letters and emails sent to the commission, multiple people spoke during the meeting itself.

Levi Wolfe, land surveyor for Engineering Associates, said the company was working with the owners of the lot and the county to ensure they were within the rules and regulations.

“It’s already a residentially zoned area … I think it’s a great fit for the area,” said Wolfe.

A member of the public raised concerns over whether the lots would be able to be subdivided further. Kristy Rowan, Coordinator and Deputy Zoning Administrator, said the lots would be able to be subdivided further but they would have to go through the same public review process.

After the public hearing was closed, BOCC Chairwoman Sue Jones commented on the zone change.

“This brings to light the discussion we had … [on] minimum lot size workshops with the Planning Commission,” Jones said. “These kinds of areas are happening all over the county. They’re old, they didn’t have their own rules … they’re all of the lot size that’s general to the area … they’re all conforming, but they [the rules] are a little bit hodgepodged out there.”

Jones then raised concerns over water in the area.

“The more wells that go out there the less water there is for everybody,” Jones said.

She recommended in the future, new developments should connect to the water system maintained by the Sierra Madre Water Joint Powers Board rather than making a new well.

Commissioner John Espy addressed the concerns of smaller lot sizes. He said keeping developments in more contained areas would be better for wildlife.

“I understand where you don’t want to be subdivided more … I don’t want to see 40 acre plots scattered from Riverside to the Colorado line,” Espy said. “If we can control it it’s better for emergency services it’s better for the public.”

Commissioner John Johnson said creating smaller and smaller subdivisions was a real concern.

“This fits the planning and zoning model, but we’ve also had more comments against this than I can recall in 11 years,” Johnson said.

“We heard nothing from the residents right next to this,” Jones said, pointing out the closest comments were from at least a half a mile away.

She said it is on the BOCC to prevent lots from being divided too much.

“I think we should strongly encourage that ten [acres] be the bottom line, and that we do something about water access,” Jones said.

The commissioners further discussed the zone change before voting.

“Is the opposition truly to these three lots or the potential these three lots represent later. I don’t know the answer to that,” Epsy said.

“Part of where I’m hesitating is we are policy makers, we should make policy,” Johnson said. “Our vote is based on current policy.”

Jones said the zone change would be in line with current policy but they should potentially rethink it to create a larger minimum for lot sizes.

The resolution to allow the zone change and subdivision was passed.

The Board of Carbon County Commissioners will have met on June 18 at the Carbon Building-Courthouse Annex in Rawlins.

The next meeting of the Board of Carbon County Commissioners will be at 9 a.m. on July 2 at the Carbon Building-Courthouse Annex in Rawlins.


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