Volume No. 16 Issue No. 11 November 2019  

  Amended statutes streamline development process
  By Lindsey Harrison

     Following a newly enacted amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners approved a request to modify the county’s review and approval process for final plats in August. The amendment allows any board of county commissioners throughout the state to delegate approval of final plats to their administrative staff.
   In El Paso County, the person who can authorize approvals for final plats is Craig Dossey, executive director of the EPC Planning and Community Development department.
   Dossey said the change has been a long time coming.
   “We have been tracking final plats for the last five years,” he said. “Ninety-four percent of those final plat requests went to the board of county commissioners as consent items. The commissioners were not really having full hearings on final plats.”
   Dossey said the modification will likely shave off about12 to 18 months of the development review and approval process, which was often spent waiting for a chance to have the application heard by the BOCC.
   Mark Waller, BOCC representative for District 2, said, “There is a huge amount of time and expense that goes into preparing these presentations to the board and a lot of it is just information we have to listen to.”
   The modification was not created to fast-track development, nor does it undermine the public participation process, Dossey said. “There are still six hearings, including the sketch plan, zoning and preliminary planning phases, before we are even in a position to consider a final plat; and all of those are open to the public,” he said. “Also, there is still the opportunity for appeal if someone feels they are aggrieved by a decision I make.”
   At the zoning stage, the BOCC has a lot of discretion but once an application has reached the final plat stage, if the developer has met the black and white criteria of the design standards, the BOCC has little discretion, Dossey said. “If it meets the requirements as determined by staff, there is nothing to deny,” he said.
   All other requirements of the development processes have been met by the time it reaches the final plat stage, Dossey said. The county engineers and planners have already approved the construction drawings, and water sufficiency has been proven, he said.
   “Water availability and water sufficiency should be discussed earlier in the process and this advocates for that,” Dossey said. “It allows us to have a very intentional conversation about water in general; we can talk about it on a bigger scale.”
   However, should a developer request that a finding of water sufficiency be delayed until the final platting phase of the process, that application must go before the BOCC and cannot be approved administratively, he said.
   “If the application is controversial in any way or someone requests a hearing, the application still comes before the BOCC,” Waller said.
   Dossey said the county has spent plenty of staff time writing reports and attending hearings, which requires taking senior engineers and planners away from their work to sit through hours of hearings, when the application only requires the consent of the BOCC.
   “This allows us to save time and energy and now we have more time to do what we do best, which is development review,” he said.
   The new process could improve housing prices and house affordability because the developers will be saving money, and hopefully they will pass those savings on to the homebuyer, Dossey said.
   “This is a rare win-win situation that was met with bipartisan support at the state level,” he said. “Support for this statute was overwhelming, which says we are in the right place.”
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