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Friday, January 19, 2007

Boulder County Considers Granting Itself Indefinite Building Moratoriums

I hope that title grabbed your attention. The County Planning Commissioners voted unanimously this week to recommend the County Commissioners give themselves the power to halt any development that, although allowed under the rules as they are currently on the books, the Commissioners may choose to change in the future.

By "maintaining land use status quo" the Commissioners could then deny any new construction after it is presented even though it fits the current regulations. They can essentially cherry pick any development that comes along and say, "uh, that doesn't look quite right to us. How about you do nothing until we change the rules to outlaw your suggestion". It's outrageous that the Planning Commission would be that arrogant. And anyway, the Commissioners can already do this sort of put-you-off-while-they-think-about-it for six months under the current code. At least that has a decision timeline built in. This new idea would make moratoriums indefinite.

This is on top of the other de facto outlawing of certain size homes they're considering. Read my thoughts and others' comments on that under The Commissioners' Rationale. The self-granting of such sweeping authority ticks me off on principle.

Read more in the Longmont Times-Call.


Anonymous said...

The heavy hand of environmental protectionist ethic is driving this. Government-mandated "appropriateness" in construction. Why don't they convert all their govt vehicles to hybrids first? Have they done energy audits on their own buildings?

Alex Schatz said...

Well, I was all ready to agree with you. What you wrote in the post on this issue sounds very unconstitutional. However, that is not what I'm reading about in the Longmont Times-Call article.

The critical distinction is that the type of moratorium authority referenced in the article and discussed by Graham Billingsley, the County Land Use Director, is prospective. In other words, it does not cover current or past applications, only future applications. Retroactive legislation is typically illegal on its face, and interfering with a current application is also a likely violation of due process. Which is why most jurisdictions that use moratorium authority will proceed only with guidelines that protect valid current applications. There is no indication that Boulder County is considering anything more than that.

The other allegation in your post is that the County's land use process already provides for a six-month moratorium. Not being an expert on the County's code, I had to look for this... and I'm still looking. I will say that the County's website has always annoyed me in the difficulty of finding land use case information (the Jan. 17 land use code proposal does not seem to be on-line). Do you have a citation for the current code authority? In any case, an indefinite moratorium would not be legal, but maybe six-months to develop new regulations proved to short(?)

Again, it seems like everyone is ready to pile on the County for all its past, present, and presumed future sins, but I have difficulty discerning why such extreme condemnation is warranted. This really isn't Boulder County pushing the envelope as far as I can tell.