Public meeting is step toward implementing county’s master plan
RBC I More than a year’s worth of work has gone into updating, rewriting, tweaking and finalizing the county’s master plan.
But it won’t become real — at least in practice — until it’s implemented.
“From the guiding principles, there are goals, and to achieve your goals you establish a series of policies that are aimed at implementing those goals, or making it real,” Davis Farrar, one of the consultants assisting the county on reworking its master plan, said at a public meeting Aug. 19. “Implementation actions that the county may take, that’s what makes this plan real.”
The master plan will be a blueprint for county growth for the next 10 years.
“The master plan is a guidance book; it’s not zoning,” said Farrar. He is the owner of Western Slope Consulting of Grand Junction, which has headed up the master plan team. “The county currently has a master plan, which is used in the same way, and this process that we’re going through now is simply to update that previous plan and make it more current.”
Last week’s meeting — attended by more than 30 people and available via videoconference on the west end of the county — was one more step in the review process.
But the end of the project is in sight.
“The hope is to continue the review and public participation through September and then go to the planning commission the end of September or first part of October,” said Jeff Madison, the county’s natural resources specialist and director of the planning department, which has played a lead role in working with the consultants on the master plan project. “This should lead to final revisions and approval in October. We will have planning commission meetings in both ends of the county. Official BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) approval is not required, but we will go through a review process to make sure they are in concurrence with the plan. This should occur before the first of the year.”
Technically, the commissioners aren’t required to adopt the master plan, but it would show unity to have their endorsement, Farrar said.
“The planning commission, under state law, is actually the entity that adopts the plan,” Farrar said. “Then we’re going to follow that up with the county commissioners to have them give their blessing on the plan … because it really doesn’t work to have the elected officials as the final decision makers not in sync with their planning commission. That doesn’t mean the county commissioners rubber stamp everything the planning commission does.
“It’s simply that both bodies — one is a recommending body, the planning commission, and one is a decision-making body — that they work together,” Farrar said. “So, the idea is to carry it through and to get general buy-in from both of those bodies as well as the general public. … After the application goes to the planning commission, then they would recommend it to the county commissioners. They would then review it, typically at a public hearing, and then render their final decision.”
Members of the planning commission are: Clint Chappell, Travis Day, Oakley Hopkins, Bud Miles, Holly Postmus, Dave Raley and Tim Winkler.
Throughout the process of reworking the master plan, county officials have asked for public input.
“We’ve made edits (in the master plan draft) based on the feedback we’ve received,” Farrar said. “The intent is to make it more streamlined. That’s something we have heard through this process, is to make it more user friendly, more so than it currently is.”
A technical advisory group — made up of members from both ends of the county — has been part of the public input process. Members of the group are: Regas Halandras, trustee for the town of Meeker; Kai Turner, Rio Blanco County commissioner; Terry Goedert, Meeker planning commissioner; Peggy Rector, at-large member; Ann Brady, former mayor for the town of Rangely; Oakley Hopkins, Rio Blanco County planning commissioner; Chris Lockwood, at-large member; Jack Rich, at-large member; Rick Brady, Rangely planning commissioner; Travis Day, Rio Blanco County planning commissioner; Ann Franklin, at-large member; and Kim O’Connell, at-large member.
Based on input the master plan team received, a new section has been added to the plan that deals with oil shale development and its possible impact on Rio Blanco County.
“We recognize oil shale is potentially a huge factor in Rio Blanco County,” Farrar said. “You’ve got the richest oil shale reserves, certainly in the United States, and probably some of the richest reserves in the world. What happens to those is anybody’s guess.
“We had some discussions with Mr. (Frank) Cooley, who is certainly an expert in that field,” Farrar said of the former chairman of the Oil Shale Regional Planning Commission. “I don’t want to say if oil shale reared its head tomorrow and you were looking at 18,000 to 25,000 new folks coming into Rio Blanco County that this plan doesn’t address it, because it will, but it’s a different ball game from what we’re dealing with. We need to recognize it, that it’s a potential reality. It could be 20 years from now, it could be two years from now. You just don’t know.”
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Funding for the master plan project is being paid, mostly, by a $97,500 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, with a $36,000 match from the county, with about half of that amount coming from in-kind services, personnel time and administrative support.