Aug 12, 2015

County relaxing its planning and zoning regulations

Of the roughly 100,000 words in Park County’s updated Planning and Zoning regulations, some stand out more than others.

“Go back to the part that says, ‘nude dancers,’” Park County Commissioner Bucky Hall said as commissioners reviewed the 300-some pages of regulations last month.

Commissioner Bucky Hall makes some suggestions during a July 21 review of the regulations. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
The section of regulations that caught Hall’s attention — defining what qualifies as an “adult use” of a piece of property — actually isn’t changing. (Adult uses like “establishments featuring nude dancers” will continue to only be allowed in certain areas, must be at least 1,500 feet away from existing structures and must get explicit county approval before opening.)

Park County is, however, relaxing its rules in a few spots:

• New “modular” homes are now allowed in the North Fork, South Fork, Sunlight and Crandall areas — though lower quality “mobile” and “manufactured” homes remain banned in those places.
As Hall summarized, “You still can’t take a double-wide (trailer) up there, but you can buy a modular home and take it up there.”

All kinds of homes are allowed outside of the North and South Forks and Sunlight and Crandall.

Under the county’s proposed regulations, the primary difference between manufactured and modular is that the allowed modular homes do not have a steel chassis.

Commissioners relaxed the regulations because they felt pre-built homes can be indistinguishable from traditional stick-built homes.

Commissioner Tim French was frustrated that nicer manufactured homes with a chassis will still be prohibited.

• Buildings can now be constructed much closer to the “alleyways” in Ralston and Garland. The county had been requiring structures to be built at least 20 feet away from the unincorporated communities’ rough alleys, but that’s now being reduced to 5 feet. That shorter set-back requirement is more in-line with what’s required in cities like Powell and Cody.

Earlier this year, the county ordered a Ralston man to move or trim his shop by 15 feet after he built it five feet from the alley, but they later backed off because of the pending changes to the regulations.

• Duplexes can be built with a lot less hassle. While landowners have been able to build a second residence on their property with very little county review, duplexes had required a special use permit — a relatively lengthy, expensive and involved process. Park County Planning Director Linda Gillett said it seemed only fair to treat duplexes just like a second house.

• No longer will developers of smaller subdivisions have to connect to public water systems (like Northwest Rural Water) when the service is nearby.

In recent years, commissioners have grown increasingly uncomfortable with requiring landowners to connect to a water service.

“They can put in a cistern,” said Commissioner Lee Livingston.

“There would still be a number of options for them,” added Commission Chairman Joe Tilden.

Major subdivisions (those with six or more lots) must still hook up to public water when its nearby.

“There’s really not many significant changes,” said county planning director Linda Gillett.

Commissioners reviewed all the proposed revisions at their meetings on July 21 and Tuesday.

“There’s really not many significant changes,” Gillett said.

Many tweaks are minor edits, including the deletion of redundant or irrelevant language.

Gone are “boarding houses” — “Who’s stayed in a boarding house in the last 40, 50 years? ... It’s not a term that’s used anymore,” Gillett said — and “drinking and dancing establishments.”

“We don’t have drinking and dancing establishments,” Gillett explained.

“That’s too bad,” joked Commissioner Livingston.

The regulations do continue to cover potentially controversial land uses that the county has yet to see — such as a strip club, a man camp or a slaughterhouse. Slaughterhouses are also referred to as “abattoirs” in the regulations. Commissioners were unfamiliar with the term, but Gillett explained they’re simply synonyms.

She joked later in the meeting that, if you want to build a slaughterhouse, “just call it an abattoir and you can do whatever you want, because nobody will know what you’re doing.”

With all the regulations, landowners are always free to ask commissioners for a variance (that is, an exception).

“Anytime somebody doesn’t like what we tell them, I always give them the option of coming to our county commissioners,” Gillett said.

A final hearing on the proposed changes to the regulations is set for Sept. 15.


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