County nixes public hearings for subdivisions
Mesa County developers and property owners who want to subdivide their land and build homes or a business on it will soon be able to skip a series of public hearings and have their projects approved administratively.
County commissioners unanimously signed off Monday on an amendment to the county’s land-development code that eliminates public hearings in front of the Planning Commission and the board of county commissioners for major subdivisions and allows those types of developments to be reviewed and approved administratively.
The decision marks a major shift in how the county processes applications to subdivide land for residential, industrial and commercial development.
Officials say it will save developers time and money and also build predictability into the review process. They also emphasized that the general public will still have a voice through neighborhood meetings and appeals of administrative decisions.
County Planning and Economic Development Department Director Kurt Larsen said the elimination of the public hearings should speed up the development review process by roughly three months.
Realtors, developers and consultants praised the change.
“Most governments make it more difficult and expensive,” Ron Abeloe, a local builder and president of Chaparral West, told commissioners. “I rarely see them look at, ‘How can we make it easier?’ “
County Administrator Jon Peacock said the public hearings seemed repetitive, particularly with applications that meet the county’s master plan and zoning code.
“If we already adopted codes and regulations and we vetted them with the public, it didn’t make sense to bring everything back through again,” he said.
Under the current review process, applicants must submit a rough sketch plan of their project, hold a neighborhood meeting, then submit a more detailed concept plan.
The Planning Commission and County Commission then hold public hearings before county commissioners reject or adopt a final plan.
Under the new process, a general meeting replaces the sketch plan and is attended by all county staff who will review the application. Developers must come up with a more detailed concept plan before they hold a neighborhood meeting, giving neighbors a more complete idea of what the subdivision entails. The Planning Commission will then review the concept plan before Larsen decides whether to approve it.
Residents who disagree with Larsen’s decision can file an appeal.
The Planning Commission would review the appeal and make a recommendation to county commissioners, who will make a decision on the appeal.