First Reading of Updated Land Development Code

Thank you to those who attended the Open Forum on Tuesday night and spoke up for our wildlife, open spaces, and riparian corridors!

The updated Land Development Code is scheduled to go before City Council for a first reading on Tuesday, July 24 at 7pm at the City Council Chambers (350 Kimbark Street). A second reading is tentatively scheduled to follow on August 14. This update includes the following change (in bold) to the regulations related to the protection of rivers/streams/wetlands/riparian areas:

15.05.020 Protection of Rivers/Streams/Wetlands/Riparian Areas

F. Setbacks

3. Variances from the Setback Standards

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a. Increased Setbacks

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b. Reduced Setbacks

The city council, with a recommendation from the planning and zoning commission under section 15.02.060.I.3, shall reduce the setbacks if it determines that the setbacks are greater than necessary to protect river/stream corridors, riparian areas, and wetlands. The setbacks shall not be reduced to a level below the minimum necessary to provide such protection. The following criteria shall be used to identify circumstances where riparian setback reductions may be warranted:

This is an important change as it places the authority to approve or deny a request for a variance from the 150 foot riparian setback with the City Council, which is an elected body subject to voters, rather than with the Planning and Zoning Commission, the members of which are appointed. Thank you, Councilmember Waters for making this motion!

Further updates to the Land Development Code that deal with the protection of rivers/streams/wetlands/riparian areas, and habitat and species protection will come after the first phase of the Land Development Code is enacted. However, this first phase of the Land Development Code does include updates to 15.02.040, which includes standards for notifying the public about proposed developments. In this section (Table 2.2), only property owners within 300 feet of a proposed development will be notified that the developer is seeking some type of variance.

Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek is asking those of you who care about the health of our riparian areas and wildlife to contact your Council member(s) and urge them to support a more robust public notification process for development applications near St. Vrain Creek and our other open space and riparian areas. These areas are public amenities enjoyed by all Longmont residents and so all Longmont residents should be notified of, and have a say in, development applications adjacent to these properties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Variance Requests for Development

On Wednesday, October 25th, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard a development request for the Harvest Junction shopping center regarding an 8-foot variance to the 150-foot riparian setback required by the City Code. It was clear from the discussion that many questions could have been answered if staff from the city’s Department of Natural Resources had been present at the meeting. Such questions involved the ecology of the riparian area, the reasoning behind the setback, and the work being done as part of the Resilient St. Vrain flood mitigation project.

Currently, there is no procedure in place to refer variance requests to the Department of Natural Resources when the request may impact a natural area such as the St. Vrain Creek corridor. In order to learn of variance requests, the Department of Natural Resources must either hear of it through word of mouth or through another informal channel.

It doesn’t strike Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek as productive for the left hand to not know what the right is doing when it’s the left hand that has the needed expertise. Therefore, we suggest that a standard operating procedure be put into place requiring the Department of Natural Resources be consulted when variances are requested that may impact wildlife or sensitive ecological areas such as the St. Vrain corridor.

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