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Cortez Planning and Zoning plans changes to land use rules

Board disagrees with parts of new Three Mile Plan
A draft land use map of Cortez and the surrounding area.

The Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission used a lengthy work session on Tuesday to examine proposed changes to the city’s land use code.

City Planner Tracie Hughes presented a draft of the new “3-mile plan,” which would determine how land can be used within 3 miles of Cortez’s current limits, in case the town expands. She also presented a proposed future land use map for the city and surrounding areas. Both will need approval from the county’s planning and zoning board in addition to the city, but the Cortez commission disagreed with some of the changes made to land use rules within city limits.

Hughes said Cortez needs to have a 3-mile plan in place before they can annex more land. But both the city and county governments will have to agree on the plan and the land use map before they can be approved.

Hughes said the changes to the plan mostly came in the form of creating designated uses for land that didn’t have any before, rather than changing existing designations.

“We don’t want to say, ‘hey, your ag land is going to be a great place for a Target,’” she said. “That’s not the approach we want to take here.”

The plan’s introduction states that it’s meant to complement the city’s comprehensive plan for zoning and development. The map Hughes presented divides Cortez into quadrants, each of which would have different rules on land use, utilities, street improvements and other issues. Hughes said these rules wouldn’t bring huge changes to most sections of city land. But one change, suggested by the county, would add “overlay zoning areas,” which would provide an incentive for land-owners to target certain areas near the highways for industrial use.

After about an hour of discussion on the details of the plan, the board members recommended a few small changes, mostly to avoid too much commercial development in residential areas. But most of them disagreed with the overlay zoning idea. City Manager Shane Hale also took issue with some of the areas recommended for industrial overlay, at least until the rest of the new land use code is finalized.

“I think, maybe, it’s a little premature at this point to include this in our plan,” he said.

Board chairman Danny Giannone particularly argued against the overlays in areas that are mostly agricultural, such as along Colorado Highway 145 north of the city limits. In the end, all board members agreed not to include that change in the 3-- mile plan. Otherwise, with a few minor changes, they expressed approval of the draft plan and the map.

The work session came after a short regular meeting, in which the board voted to recommend the county approve four new cabins on property owned by Janice and Keith Moen on 26965 County Road N, and a high-impact permit on property owned by John Shutz on 25582 County Road H. Both votes were unanimous, but Giannone recused himself from the second vote due to a possible conflict of interest.

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