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City Council unanimously approves plan to update land use codes

Community and Economic Development Director Rachael Marchbanks (left) and Jennifer Gardner of Logan Simpson presented to the City Council regarding the renewal of the city’s land use codes. (Screen Capture/Cortez City Council YouTube)
A committee of community members helped select the entity to rewrite the codes

At their Feb. 28 meeting, the City Council unanimously approved a plan to rewrite the Cortez land use code after the city’s Community and Economic Development Director Rachael Marchbanks emphasized that the code was last updated 27 years ago.

According to Marchbanks, efforts to renew the codes a few years ago failed because of the difficult process.

Marchbanks said that since the last update, needs have changed and the codes are hard to decipher and contain conflicting information.

She added that an update could help the Cortez housing market and align with the changes of the past 27 years.

The city put together a committee of community members to help choose the entity to rewrite the codes. There were four finalists, and Logan Simpson out of Fort Collins was chosen to do the job.

Dave Waters, one of the committee members, said that he was happy the public was included and that the community’s wishes were being heard in the selection of Logan Simpson.

“I feel very confident that will be a huge part of their project, and it should be,” Waters said. “I feel confident recommending them and hopefully working with them and involving the community.”

Another committee member named Ernie said he was impressed with Logan Simpson’s communication and problem-solving skills.

“I think they’ll address the concerns of the community at large,” he said.

One of the reasons Logan Simpson was chosen was because of their “extensive experience in Colorado and rural communities” and great experience in land codes, according to Marchbanks.

The total cost of the project is $154,450, but the city was approved for a grant that will cover 75% of the project. The grant will pay $115,837, leaving the city to cover the remaining $38,612.

Logan Simpson’s senior associate planner and landscape architect, Jennifer Gardner, attended the council meeting and spoke of Logan Simpson’s plans for the project.

She said Logan Simpson wants to ensure community involvement and hear community input throughout the update process. She said they would hold small meetings at the beginning of the project that will be open to the public and the project will include work sessions, updates, adjustments, and community forums to hear feedback about on code drafts.

“We try to be transparent throughout the process and make sure no one if left behind during the revision of the codes,” Gardner said.

Cortez Mayor Rachel Medina acknowledged failed attempts to renew the code in the past.

“We want to approach this better and include everyone’s voice,” Medina said. “Please hold us accountable during this process. It’ll take a lot of work.”

Councilwoman Arlina Yazzie thanked the public for helping make sure the city did its due diligence with the code renewal.

“We had a great breadth of thoughts, opinions and experiences,” Yazzie said. “They (Logan Simpson) were open with their values, and it fits what we need here. This process will look really different from the last time around.”

Councilman Dennis Spruell said he appreciated how Logan Simpson’s representatives took the time to drive around Cortez and familiarize themselves with the town before making their pitch to rewrite the codes.

“We are not Durango or Moab or Telluride. We are Cortez, Colorado, and they knew us. They rose to the top. The people of Cortez will benefit from their expertise,” Spruell said.