RIDING HERD ON DEVELOPMENT CODE
As houses and horses draw closer together, need to update county’s land-use regulations discussed
That’s what Connie Klauzer and her horses enjoyed for years. Then came Fiddlers Grove, Cherry Wood, Chatfield and other subdivisions full of new residents.
“These people soon became unhappy living close to livestock,” Klauzer told the Mesa County Commission, which is considering numerous changes to the Mesa County Land Development code this year.
It became human nature vs. Mother Nature. Klauzer said residents pitch rocks and trash onto her land; late-night hot tub parties and loud music spook her horses; pet owners allow their dogs free rein on her property; children have thrown rocks at her horses; and because of stormwater runoff from surrounding developments, mild storms now have the potential to send water rushing through her stables like raging floods.
“I have had to make the concessions. These people have not,” Klauzer told the commission in October.
It was her experience in the mid-1970s, with the building of the Cherry Wood subdivision, that spurred the county to change the development code and mandate homes be kept at least 100 feet from livestock structures such as chicken coops, barns and horse stables.
Rural lifestyles are falling to urban developments, said Arthur Blom, owner of Timber King Missouri Fox Trotters, a horse-breeding business.
His land once abutted wide-open spaces but is now being encroached upon by new homes.
Developer Gary Rinderle was pressuring the county commission to change the 100-foot setback requirement so he could completely build out his 30-home Deerfield subdivision at 560 32 5/8 Road.
Instead of changing the code, the commission agreed to a compromise. Rinderle was allowed to plat the lots within 100 feet of the livestock structures, but the building permits for those lots are being withheld until Blom quits the horse-breeding business, according to county planning staff.
“We need to continue our farming for a few more years. It won’t be long. And then we’ll be gone,” Blom said. “That land out there is probably going to grow houses better than horses.”
Blom said he realizes rural enterprises such as his are disappearing, but for as long as they do exist, they should have the same rights they have always had.
“This was set up to protect the farmers and the livestock owners. If they still exist, they should still have their rights,” Blom said.
“Codes should remain for the last few (ranchers) just as they did for the first, and the majority, at one time.”
Such conflicts are sure to arise again as more agricultural land is consumed by homes.
To avoid similar problems in the future the land development code needs to be updated, said Robert Engelke, the development consultant for the Deerfield subdivision in Clifton.
“It is a poorly written code. The county land-use code is full of bad stuff,” he said. “The way it is written, they will be sued.”
The latest revision to the code was in 2000. The county commission has made updating it a top priority in 2009.
“It is definitely in the top three (priorities),” Commissioner Craig Meis said.
Much of the code was written for a rural community, but the community is becoming urban, Meis said.
“There has got to be some differentiation between urban and rural (in the codes),” Meis said. “We try to force country living into urban standards.”
Some of the issues within the code that could draw attention are sign standards, home-based
businesses, parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas and setbacks, Meis said.
No one should expect a complete revision; rather a targeting of trouble spots in the code is planned.
“I don’t think it is wise to keep scrapping the code and rewriting it,” said Linda Dannenberger, Mesa County’s director of land use and development.
“I think it needs to be amended as issues evolve. ... It needs to be evolutionary and change with the community.”