1.1 The Partnership Land Use System
Larimer County is developing the Partnership Land Use System to maintain and enhance our county's quality of life and to be fundamentally fair to all our citizens and to respect their individual rights.Early in the PLUS project, the County Commissioners conducted a series of land use symposia and community forums to begin to frame the issues surrounding land use, development and growth. At these meetings, citizens expressed concern about two types of development issues.
The second set of issues deals with the development process and the difficulties both applicants and concerned community members have in understanding and interacting with the existing land use regulations and development review process. Many citizens stated the concern that the regulations were not clearly tied to the adopted Plan and because standards are often unclear or even contradictory, land use decisions sometimes appear arbitrary or inconsistent. Another concern is to provide adequate neighborhood and community input in the development review process. The next phase of the PLUS process - development of a Land Use Code - will deal with the issues of the development process. Chapter 2 of the Master Plan, Growth Management, states principles for developing the Land Use Code in a manner that is consistent with the citizen input received in the PLUS process.
These two elements, the Master Plan and the Land Use Code, are essential to each other and together comprise the written part of the Partnership Land Use System. The Master Plan states the policy direction for land use decisions in the County and the Land Use Code provides the rules and processes to carry out the Plan policies.
The third element of PLUS is harder to describe but is also an essential element. This component makes up the Partnership part of PLUS. It is really a new way of looking at the planning process and understanding that planning is not only a compilation of policies and rules. Planning is, at its base, a community of individuals finding common goals and working on strategies to achieve them that are fair both to the individuals and to the community. This third element of PLUS must be an on-going process and will continue long beyond the adoption of the Master Plan and the Land Use Code. Examples of this on-going process include, but are not limited to, education and recommendations from advisory committees.
Developing a land use system that is "fundamentally fair" has been a consistent goal of the Partnership Land Use System, as stated in the project's Mission above. Statements from the citizen input portion of the project indicate that the current land use planning process is considered to be unfair by people on all sides of the issue. References to fairness are repeated throughout citizen comments concerning the new Partnership Land Use System. (See the Larimer County Partnership Land Use System Symposia Summary Report, 1994-1996 available in the Planning Department.) In order to guide PLUS and to provide a means of judging whether the Master Plan and implementing actions meet this goal, the County Commissioners asked the citizen advisory group of PLUS to develop Fairness Principles. The following principles represent a consensus statement from the PLUS Advisory Council (PAC).
A Fair Process:
The Master Plan Location Map shows the County and its municipalities;
it also identifies the Front Range Study Area. This area of Larimer County
includes all of the urban and urbanizing part of the County, except the
Estes Valley, and about 94% of the total County population. In order to
save costs and time, some data elements were collected only for the Front
Range Study Area.
The purpose of a county Master Plan is to serve as a policy document for development decisions in the unincorporated area of Larimer County. The Master Plan can be considered the "constitution" for development in the County. It establishes Guiding Principles that should be achieved by all development. For each Guiding Principle the Master Plan outlines Implementation Strategies which provide the framework for staff work programs and for developing rules and regulations that govern land use decisions.
Master planning by county government is authorized in Colorado State Statutes. Section 30-28-106 (1) states: It is the duty of a county planning commission to make and adopt a master plan for the physical development of the unincorporated territory of the county.
The Larimer County Master Plan has several purposes:
The Partnership Land Use System planning project began with a public participation process. Citizen input has been a significant part of PLUS throughout the development of the Master Plan. In October 1994, the County Commissioners organized a land use planning symposium to explore issues surrounding growth, specifically for the northeast area of the County. The symposium brought together approximately 60 citizens and public officials for a series of two weekend sessions. Participants were selected by a citizen committee with the intent of bringing together a wide variety of backgrounds and viewpoints.
The results of the symposium were impressive. The group began with considerable polarization between those who believed development should be encouraged and those who believed development should be discouraged. By the end of the session most participants expressed a feeling of having found common ground and a basis for proceeding to correct problems with the current planning system. For example, much discussion focused on the need for alternatives to division of large properties into 35-acre tracts. State law currently exempts this type of land division from local subdivision regulations. This discussion led directly to the formation of a 35-acre Task Force and eventual adoption of a new, flexible approach to rural development called the Rural Land Use Process (see Section 3.2).
Three more symposia followed, with the last held early in 1996. Each
symposium included a public reporting of results by citizen participants
at community forums held around the County. In all, more than 200 citizens
participated in this symposium process. The expression of concerns about
the existing situation and the common vision for a planning process that
could protect the quality of life of County residents are expressed in
the following Themes and throughout the Master Plan.
Other important components of the citizen input process are the PLUS Advisory Council (PAC), the Agricultural Task Force, the 35-Acre Task Force, the Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) and the PLUS Steering Committee which consists of the Larimer County Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners.
|TH-1. Land use shall be suitable for and compatible with the environmental
characteristics of the site. The planning process shall recognize distinctions
in the land, establish performance standards based on natural systems,
and develop incentive-based programs to help landowners keep lands open
that are desired for their open space values.
TH-2. Natural and cultural resources shall be identified, conserved
TH-3. Agriculture will remain a viable long-term segment of Larimer
County's economic, cultural and social fabric.
TH-4. The Master Plan shall support logical settlement patterns that
reflect the character of the Open West, i.e. the existing character of
Larimer County, and protect existing neighborhoods.
TH-5. Urban land use shall ultimately be in cities and towns.
TH-6. Open lands shall continue to be a defining feature of the landscape
of Larimer County.
TH-7. Buffers shall be provided between cities and towns to maintain
TH-8. Adequate public facilities and services shall be provided concurrent
TH-9. The Master Plan shall encourage a balanced, economically feasible
multi-modal transportation system for safe and efficient travel in the
TH-10. The planning process shall support a sustainable, balanced
economy with equal access to housing opportunity, employment and upward
TH-11. Intergovernmental cooperation will be critical for Plan implementation.
TH-12. The Master Plan and the implementing rules and regulations
shall be consistent.
TH-13. The planning and development review process shall be fair,
open and predictable, and meet the needs and interests of the community
without infringing on the rights of individuals.
TH-14. Planning is viewed as a proactive process.
Chapter 2. Growth Management:
provides an overview of the Growth Management System and principles for urban and rural development, agricultural lands, economic development and affordable housing.
Chapter 3. Land Use:
describes County land use patterns for urban, rural, and special plan areas and includes the Land Use Framework Map. Principles for urban and rural land use, the Airport Influence Area and requirements for all development are included.
Chapter 4. Public Facilities and Services:
includes a description of public facilities and services and an approach to providing and funding facilities. Principles include adequate public facilities, coordinated planning and funding mechanisms.
Chapter 5. Transportation:
describes existing transportation facilities and deficiencies, and sets out principles for a future transportation plan and improvements program.
Chapter 6. Environmental Resources
outlines an approach for identifying and protecting resources, and provides principles for environmental review and protection of specific resource types.
Chapter 7. Implementation:
provides a framework for developing consistent, fair and user-friendly land use regulations and other implementation programs and outlines an evaluation and monitoring program for implementing actions. An Action Plan for specific implementing actions is included.
Throughout the Master Plan, plans, reports and studies are referenced which were used as background material. These documents provide the basis for many principles and strategies in the Plan. In many cases, the documents are the result of countless hours of citizen and staff work. This tremendous effort on the part of individuals and groups has helped to give the Master Plan much greater depth than would have been possible otherwise. The documents are listed at the end of the Master Plan in Reference Materials. The many individuals who were part of this process are hereby acknowledged and thanked. Your contribution is invaluable.