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Cortez planning board shifts its focus to carports

Board seeks to add regulations to new land use code
A metal carport in Cortez.

The Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday discussed adding regulations for metal residential carports.

According to City Planner Tracie Hughes, property owners in Cortez often install prebuilt carports without permits, and they are not currently subject to specific design guidelines. The draft land use code the city has been working on for several months includes design criteria for carports, but the many metal ones that exist throughout the town wouldn’t meet those criteria. Most Planning and Zoning board members agreed the new code shouldn’t prohibit metal carports entirely, but it should include more regulations for installing new ones.

Hughes said metal carports pose problems for code enforcement because they usually don’t match the construction of the house to which they’re attached, and if they have two enclosed sides, they can create a visual barrier for cars on the street. Despite these potential problems, their owners often don’t realize they need a building permit to install them. Board Chairman Danny Giannone said they’re also unpleasant to look at.

“You look at it, and you know exactly why it’s there,” he said. “It’s there because it’s cheap.”

Board Member Tom Butler agreed, but Ken Brengle and Rebecca Levy pointed out that many people can’t afford more expensive, better-looking carports, and those who can usually live in neighborhoods with homeowners associations that don’t allow cheap-looking ones anyway.

Planning and Building director Sam Proffer weighed in on the issue, saying the city needs a consistent standard for regulating carports.

“They’re just all over town,” he said. “Trying to regulate them has just been a nightmare.”

He said that on the rare occasions when residents apply for a permit to install a carport, he often has to turn them down because they don’t meet zoning regulations, but there are no penalties in place for people who buy the structures without permission.

Hughes said Cortez has the option of prohibiting metal carports altogether, as other cities have done, but Brengle said he didn’t believe that was the answer.

“If this was Telluride, and everyone had the money, this would be a totally different discussion,” he said. “But when you’re talking about people in a financially distressed area ... I would like to see these things regulated and installed correctly rather than banned altogether.”

Several members of the board recommended allowing metal carports as long as they meet the same building requirements as other “accessory buildings,” including the right amount of setback from the street. They also discussed the importance of giving residents an incentive to apply for a permit before installing a carport.

Proffer said he and Hughes would take the board’s comments into account as they continue to work on the land use code, as well as the new building code Proffer plans to implement in September.

Other action

During the meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission also:

Approved a change of use from residential to commercial for the building on 1823 E. Main St. The owners, Peter Singleton and Kerri White, hope to start a spa there.Approved a modified exception to fence height requirements in the 800 block of Austin Street for Ned Harper and Janis Nowlin in a 3-1 vote, with Brengle voting “no.” Announced the board’s intention to present a commemorative plaque to former member Tim Kline, who was not present at the meeting.

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