Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Everyone I know agrees that Estes Park is a very special place. This doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes a lot of effort by many in the community to keep the environment healthy, the economy vibrant, and the community safe.

A big part of what makes a community a good place to live is appropriate land use planning. When done well, it allows owners to make use of their property in ways that respect the rights of neighbors. It also provides for efficient transportation, quality recreational opportunities, and harmonious transitions from commercial and residential uses and from town to more rural areas.

Twenty years ago wise leaders in the town and county came up with an unprecedented method and level of land use collaboration between the Town of Estes Park and Larimer County. It was so new in fact, that they had to ask the Colorado Legislature to get the land use statutes changed to allow for it. Out of this foresight came the Estes Valley Planning Commission comprised of both town and unincorporated residents that hear all land use applications and work on a common land use plan and code for the Estes area. This allowed both town and rural residents to have a meaningful and important voice in the future of their community.

We have now come to the end of the twenty-year intergovernmental agreement that has served us so well. Many of us want to see this level of cooperation continue, albeit with some updates that seem wise based on our recent experiences of working together.

The Larimer County Commissioners recently held two joint hearings with the town board and received almost unanimous public support for renewing the agreement. In fact, it was remarked that individuals from across the political spectrum who rarely agree were on the same page in supporting renewal.

Unfortunately, four of the seven members of the Estes Park Town Board are not in favor of renewing the agreement in its current form. Addressing the concerns they shared at the hearings, several of us have worked to craft some compromises which will address those concerns but allow the Joint Planning Commission to continue.

I wish to thank Trustees Ron Norris, Ken Zornes and Eric Blackhurst for listening to the citizens and working to continue a meaningful cooperative relationship with the county.

With an update of the Estes Valley Comprehensive Land Use Plan forthcoming, now is not the time to go back twenty years in planning innovation in the Estes Valley. I remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached soon that will allow us to move forward and keep what’s good about cooperative land use planning in Estes Park.

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