Commissioners finalize major land use code revisions

Targeted Code Improvements take effect August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012

It’s shorter, simpler and smarter. A year and a half of scrutiny of land use code in Garfield County has resulted in the first phase of an easier to understand code, which is now in effect. The newly amended Unified Land Use Resolution (ULUR) is the code for which any applicant who applies for a county development permit will follow in seeking approval from the county.

The changes became effective August 13, and the updated ULUR Code of 2008, as amended, is posted online at

It has resulted in the adoption of changes intended to encourage economic development and to streamline land use code processes. The resulting Phase I of the process reduced the page count of the ULUR by approximately 23%, eliminating 133 pages. And it required more than thirty hours of evaluation by the Garfield County Planning Commission.

“I believe it has been a well-thought out, detailed process,” says Bob Fullerton, Planning Commission chair and local realtor. “The process involved professional consultants, interviews with planning commission members, folks in the community who are involved in the land use process, and our citizens group, all of whom put in many hours. After gathering all of that input, we worked on it as a planning commission. We tried diligently to eliminate duplication, worked to make it easy to use and to avoid unintended consequences. It took many hours to go through it line by line, and to meticulously critique it.”

The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) directed county staff in January of 2011 to consider code revisions with these stated objectives:

  • Eliminate unnecessary regulatory barriers that may discourage economic development;
  • Streamline development procedures;
  • Make the overall code more efficient; and
  • Ensure the document is user-friendly

“This is an important step toward removing bureaucratic impediments in our land use processes,” said Tom Jankovsky, Garfield County commissioner. “Our goal is to stimulate economic development and to meet our responsibilities for health, safety and welfare for our county, but in a way that says we are open for business.”

The county then retained Clarion Associates, a planning, land use and real estate consulting firm, to distill, prioritize and draft changes to the ULUR with the recommendations of a volunteer working group, interviewees, the public and county staff. Clarion compiled recommendations for code changes into an assessment report and recommended revisions for both short-term and longer-term improvements.

In the fall of 2011, Clarion drafted changes to the code consistent with the recommended short-term improvement outlined in the assessment report. In December 2011, Clarion presented the proposed changes to the BOCC. The BOCC reviewed the proposed targeted code revisions and initiated a formal text amendment process. The amended articles of the ULUR have integrated the following improvements:

To increase overall efficiency by:

  • Streamlining the review process for small projects
  • Requiring limited time for complete application review
  • Reducing the amount of discretionary review
  • Reducing the level of review
  • Updating use-specific standards
  • Amending oil and gas regulations
  • Decreasing submission requirements
  • Providing a process for submittal and standard waivers

To make the document more user-friendly by:

  • Updating and combining use tables
  • Moving information into easy-to-read tables with cross-referencing
  • Standardizing procedures where possible
  • Formatting instructions consistently to the applicant
  • Eliminating redundancies in the procedures
  • Updating the use table to increase flexibility
  • Incorporating technical changes

The Phase I Targeted Code Improvements were presented to the BOCC in public hearings on both July 10th and August 6th. The BOCC adopted these code changes and they are effective as of August 13, 2012.

With all of the work in Phase I complete, the BOCC continues with Phase II revisions currently underway through the work of The Advisory Committee on the Land Use Code for Garfield County. The group is anticipated to wrap up its review by December 31, 2012, with a recommendation to the BOCC.

Please contact the Garfield County Building and Planning Department for additional information at (970) 945-8212.

Land Use Code