County Beat: June 14, 2018

DRONE DISCUSSION

New uses are being found for drones all the time, and as the technology develops, authorities have to determine new policies and procedures. Unauthorized drone use around wildfires, for instance, has resulted in air fire suppression efforts being grounded.

Whether drones should be used for code enforcement—specifically building code violations—was addressed Monday during a commissioners’ workshop.

Sheriff Anthony Mazzola and RBC Surveyor Leif Joy both expressed disapproval, stating the county would need to have probable cause of a crime and a warrant, or at the least, written consent from the property owner, to legally use the drone to record code violations on private property.

Using the drone for enforcement would be detrimental to the public trust, Joy said, and would risk the loss of a valuable tool used for search and rescue, surveying and road and bridge work. 

Commissioner Si Woodruff and attorney Kent Borchard said they thought the use of drones would simply be a way to have an accurate recording of violations of the county’s building codes in the event a property owner’s failure to comply ended up in court.

After discussion, the board agreed the drone should not be used for code enforcement without the express written consent of the property owner in question.

NO MORE IMPACT FEES

In 2008, Rio Blanco County took the unprecedented step of establishing impact fees on the energy industry in an attempt to recoup funds to address infrastructure needs exacerbated by rapid energy development, such as County Road 5 and the justice center.

In the last eight years, those impact fees have been blamed for the dramatic reduction in new energy development in the county, and have been scapegoated as a reason the industry has not returned in force to the resource-rich Piceance Basin.

Monday the RBC Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution ending the impact fees.

Commissioner Jeff Rector said he had spoken with a number of industry officials, and believes the move will encourage new energy development to return to Rio Blanco County.

Garfield County doesn’t have impact fees, but it does have a fairly stringent permitting process. Rector said their Garfield County counterparts are “nervous” about RBC’s decision.

Other business:

Heard an update on violations by Local Access Internet in the way accounts have been managed, and requested an audit.

Approved liquor permits for the weekly rodeo, chamber of commerce annual banquet, and multiple Range Call events.

Approved a hotel and restaurant liquor license for Ripple Creek Lodge.

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