Proposed exemption reads as it always has
Re: Richard Wojciechowski Letter to the Editor (“No Confusion on Section 9”)
Richard Wojciechowski is absolutely correct that Ouray’s citizens should carefully review the proposed changes to the Visual Impact Regulations and understand them. But did he? I don’t think so.
His letter makes it sound like there are radical, draconian changes planned that would gut the current VIR’s exemption for agricultural and mining structures. But, the proposed exemption reads exactly the same as that passed in 1997! There are NO CHANGES WHATSOEVER! Both exclude “Accessory structures, private roads and/or driveways used exclusively for agricultural or mining purposes, and not located on any escarpment or ridgeline.”
And, there’s nothing new that would change the current practice that ag and mining structures are exempt from the entirety of Section 9—they don’t have to blend, pass the point system or meet setback rules, and they are not limited in future expansions. (And staff doesn’t nitpick on whether a particular structure is occasionally used by an outfitter, rather than “exclusively” for ag or mining purposes.)
Also, contrary to his misinterpretation of one Planning Commissioner’s statements, the exemption for ag and mining structures covers new as well as existing structures, just like it always has. There’s nothing in the exemption language itself that says only existing structures are exempt. It’s the actual wording that counts, not ambiguous meeting minutes.
Likewise, his claim that the ag and mining exemption only applies to “accessory structures,” and not to “primary structures,” is a non-issue. It just doesn’t make a difference under our land use code. An “accessory structure” is defined under Section 22 as one that is “naturally and normally incidental to a use by right.” The “use by right” here is agriculture or mining, and a structure that is accessory to that use is exempt, including dwelling units.
So, I’m with Tom McKenney and the question his letter asked—why have some of the ranchers lawyered up to oppose VIR changes which are clearly intended to make no change to the exemption? Could it be that the proposal would add view corridors and protect some additional ranchlands in case they decide to subdivide for development?
We all have great respect for this county’s ranchers and how they have been great stewards of the land. They can justifiably take credit for preserving the rural character and scenery of the valley floors. And, as long as ranches are ranches, they should be exempt. But if and when a rancher chooses to subdivide and sell lots (as some have done in the past), that is exactly when we’ll need the VIR to apply to ALL the areas that need protection. The Planning Commission’s proposal will do just that, while making no changes to the exemption for ag and mining structures in the meantime.