EL PASO COUNTY POLICY PLAN


 CHAPTER 1-B

 SECTION 7.0 SPECIAL AND UNIQUE LAND USES

BACKGROUND
 
The purpose of this section is to address some of the land uses which are ancillary to traditional residential, commercial, office, industrial and agricultural categories. The land application review process for these types of uses can be controversial, and may rely significantly upon one or more elements of the County Master Plan for special guidance. For this reason, a separate policy section has been devoted to this generally defined group of uses. However, one important clarification and one distinction should be made here. The clarification is that most of the uses discussed in the Section are also addressed to varying degrees in other Sections of the Policy Plan or as a separate Master Plan element. The distinction is that the term "Special or unique land use" should not be confused with "use subject to special review" which has a much more limited and defined zoning-related application. This section is organized under the five headings of general policies, institutional uses, solid waste, mining, towers and transmission facilities, and other related uses.
 
General Policies
The list of uses which might be considered as ancillary to traditional land use categories is quite extensive. Several of these present planning challenges on a fairly consistent basis. These use categories include but are not limited to
  • institutional uses such as religious institutions, schools, and governmental buildings
  • solid waste sites and facilities
  • mineral extraction and related uses
  • towers
  • transmission facilities
  • different combinations of residential and non-residential uses on the same property
  • commercial stables, riding facilities, and kennels
  • special population homes and care facilities
  • daycare
  • additional dwelling units where only one is normally allowed
  • recreation facilities including golf courses, racetracks, shooting ranges, and campgrounds
  • off premise signs
  • home-based businesses
 

 

Some of these uses, such as elementary schools, churches and second dwelling units occur widely across the County. Others are likely to be unique one-of-a-kind situations. What often unifies these uses is the special attention they need in the planning process.
 
Institutional Uses
As defined in this document, institutional land uses are identified as those associated with public or quasi-public functions. Included in this category are religious institutions because these often involve large public assemblies. Institutional uses have widely varying scales, service areas, location requirements and potential impacts.
 
Solid Waste
In El Paso County, solid waste collection, transfer and disposal services are provided primarily through the private sector. Major facilities are locally permitted , but are required to undergo a State Health Department review and to meet minimum State and federal standards. Over the past few decades, more stringent design and monitoring standards have combined to greatly reduce the number of solid waste disposal sites. Presently, there are only three (3) major landfills in the County under two (2) separate ownerships. However, with the recent approvals of new or expanded sites, the combined capacity of these municipal solid waste facilities is approximately one hundred (100) years. This calculation of capacity assumes only limited importation of wastes from outside of the County. Waste reduction, recycling and other diversion programs are also largely operated within the private sector. These are augmented by County programs supported through a fee charged at the point of disposal.
 
Mining
El Paso County currently has an up-to-date topical element of the County Master Plan, entitled, Updated Master Plan for the Extraction of Commercial Mineral Deposits (Mineral Extraction Plan). This document allows for compliance with a 1973 State law which requires the more populous counties of the State to identify and maintain reasonable access to mineral deposits of significant commercial value. The Mineral Extraction Plan also provides policy guidance which may be used in the review of proposed new or expanded mining operations. Mining in the County is primarily limited to extraction of sand, gravel and crushed-rock aggregate, used locally for various public and private new construction and maintenance purposes. Mining in El Paso County is allowed in all zone districts subject to Special Use approval. Since the mid-1970's, mining operations have been required to obtain and adhere to a reclamation permit administered through the State Division of Minerals and Geology.
 
Towers, Transmission Facilities and Related Uses
Within the unincorporated areas are many commercial or private communications towers ranging in height from about fifty (50) to over one thousand (1,000) feet. By far, the largest single concentration of towers is located on top of Cheyenne Mountain. Others are distributed around the County. Towers are ordinarily located at or near topographic high points in order to maximize their range and effectiveness. The County is served by hundreds of miles of major transmission facilities which include, but are not limited to, water, sewer and natural gas lines, petroleum pipelines and electric transmission corridors.
 
These linear facilities may be associated with various fixed facilities including water tanks, sewage treatment plants, and electric substations. Transmission facilities are often, but not always associated with public or quasi-public utilities.
 
These are addressed more specifically in Sections 10.0 Water and Wastewater, and 12.0 Other Utilities and Services of this Plan. Section 35.11 of the El Paso County Land Development Code includes specific regulations and standards which govern many commercial and private towers. As discussed in Section 15.0 Land Development Regulations of this Plan, review of the location of many public utility transmission facilities by the Planning Commission is allowed through C.R.S. 30-28-110. In case of disapproval, the Planning Commission’s decision may be appealed to the Board of County Commissioners or the Public Utilities Commission as applicable.
 
ISSUE 7.1 Effectively Plan for Special and Unique Land Uses
A common characteristic of special or unique uses is that they tend to be difficult to accommodate within conventional zoning which tends to categorize uses. For example, most zone districts allow for little or no combination of residential and non-residential uses on the same property, making it difficult to accommodate uses such as home-based businesses or caretaker functions. However, if no constraints were put on these combinations, a variety of adverse impacts including inadequate facilities, diminution of property values or health and safety problems could occur.
 
Often the issue is one of perceived precedent, where, for example, one additional dwelling unit or business use in a neighborhood may have only a minimal impact, but the aggregate impact of several such uses may have an adverse effect; however, land use decisions are not precedent setting, as each is reviewed and decided on the merits and factual circumstances of each case. In order to address these types of special uses, approvals are often limited by a number of conditions. This, in turn, becomes an administrative challenge, as there may be no effective way of ensuring compliance with conditions. Special and unique land uses tend to become concentrated in areas which are transitional in nature, and which often have limited public services and facilities available. Daycare centers present a special challenge because of their abundance and the fact that they are often located in otherwise residential neighborhoods.
 
Another characteristic which distinguishes special and unique land uses is that a number of them fall into the locally-unwanted category. For example, the need for conveniently located trash transfer stations or transmission towers may be regionally recognized, but this does not eliminate what may be strident local opposition.
 
Goal 7.1 Reasonably accommodate unique and special uses which provide value to the greater community and which can be made consistent with surrounding uses.
 
Policy 7.1.1
Accommodate unique combinations of land uses (such as employment and residential uses) on the same property if it can be demonstrated that aggregate impacts will be limited, adequate facilities and services will be available and the use will be compatible with the character of the surrounding area.
 
Policy 7.1.2
Consider the future combined impact of potential additional land use requests when considering individual applications for special or unique land uses.
 
Policy 7.1.3
Allow for the accommodation of daycare centers in or adjacent to residential areas and employment centers provided that they are designed and operated in a manner which satisfactorily addresses issues of safety, compatibility and facility and service availability.
 
Policy 7.1.4
Accommodate home-based businesses which do not detract from the character of residential areas, do not create substantial impacts on facilities and services, and do not require the imposition of conditions of approvals which will be difficult to enforce.
 
ISSUE 7.2 Plan for Institutional Uses
With the exception of public schools, many of those uses which are categorized as "institutional" are often not fully addressed through the privately-initiated land use planning process. In many cases, sites are not set aside for such uses as college campuses, private schools, churches and other religious institutions, hospitals, governmental and utility installations, and cemeteries. The land use impacts of these uses are extremely variable, and can range from being fairly benign to being very substantial. For example, traditional small churches and related religious institutions which conduct activities of a limited scope and duration may have limited land use impacts when compared with neighboring residential uses. However, larger facilities with multiple functions and activities of more extended duration may have cumulative impacts which would make these uses incompatible in certain areas. Institutional uses may also contribute value to surrounding areas in a number of ways in addition to their primary use and function. Examples might include unique architectural character, open space preservation, provision of services such as day care and off hours parking and meeting facilities.
 
Goal 7.2
Promote comprehensive planning for major institutional land uses.
 
Policy 7.2.1
Encourage the designation of appropriate sites for institutional land uses through the Sketch Plan process.
 
Policy 7.2.2
Recognize the need to plan for and evaluate requests for institutional land uses on a project and site-specific basis.
 
Policy 7.2.3
Allow for the reasonable accommodation of neighborhood-scale institutional uses in all areas of the County.
 
Policy 7.2.4
Allow for religious institutions as a permitted use in all zone districts provided that associated uses and building style are compatible with the neighboring character and that facilities and services are or will be available.
 
Policy 7.2.5
Discourage the location of major institutional uses in predominantly residential areas unless these uses are adequately screened and buffered, and potential traffic impacts are fully addressed.
 
ISSUE 7.3 Promote comprehensive solid waste management
El Paso County does not have an overall solid waste management plan. However, in many key areas of collection, disposal, transfer, special waste handling and recycling, the system appears to be functioning well. Planning challenges in the future may include management of scrap tires, illegal dumping, special waste handling, the potential for importation of wastes from outside of the County, addressing hazardous waste and recycling in an economically effective manner, and dealing with the implications of reduced market competition. Currently, it is not legally possible to prohibit the importation of wastes from outside of the County. Due to favorable geology it is also possible that El Paso County could be considered for siting of a hazardous waste disposal facility in the future.
 
Goal 7.3 Promote an integrated, effective, and environmentally sensitive market-driven approach to solid waste management within El Paso County.
 
Policy 7.3.1
Develop, adopt, and maintain a comprehensive solid waste management plan for the County.
 
Policy 7.3.2
Encourage waste reduction through a combination of careful planning, source reduction, recovery and recycling.
 
Policy 7.3.3
Specifically encourage the recycling of yard and other clean organic wastes in the County.
 
Policy 7.3.4
Allow for the reasonable accommodation of land uses which respond to technical and economic changes in the solid waste management industry.
 
Policy 7.3.5
Encourage land development and construction techniques which limit the production of solid waste and promote recycling.
 
Policy 7.3.6
Reasonably accommodate uses and facilities which will result in the beneficial use of materials which would otherwise end up in the waste stream.
 
Policy 7.3.7
Protect the County’s legal authority with respect to the review and siting of waste facilities and licensing of operators.
 
Issue 7.4 Allow for Environmentally Sensitive Mining Activities
Mining is an especially important County planning issue because most of this activity occurs within unincorporated areas. As a general rule of thumb, the County generates a per capita demand of approximately 8-10 tons of sand and gravel each year. In an average year, this demand is fairly evenly distributed between new construction and maintenance of existing facilities. Therefore, the need for mining is not tied completely to new development resulting from population or employment growth. Because aggregates have a high bulk-to-value ratio, it is important to have conveniently located sources in order to control product cost. Location is also important from a material quality standpoint. As aggregate product quality standards generally become more stringent, the options for available sources become diminished.
 
While there are numerous potential impacts associated with mining and mineral processing activities, the principal concerns ordinarily have to do with general land use compatibility, truck traffic and minimization of adverse visual impacts. Because many of the major and more visible mining operations in the County predate current regulations, issues of concern often have to be addressed through non-regulatory means.
 
Goal 7.4 Permit mineral extraction and processing activities in the County in a manner which allows for preservation of significant commercial deposits, minimization of adverse visual and other environmental impacts, economical resource use and consideration of other planning issues.
 
Policy 7.4.1
Allow for the economical extraction of the commercial mineral resources necessary for the development and maintenance of El Paso County.
 
Policy 7.4.2
The County should continue to cooperate in extra-regulatory efforts such as the Enhanced Mining Reclamation Program, directed toward minimizing the adverse impacts of existing mining operations.
 
Policy 7.4.3
Revise and maintain the data associated with the County’s Master Plan for the Extraction of Commercial Mineral Deposits so that it will remain an effective tool for both the preservation of significant deposits and the review of new mining applications.
 
ISSUE 7.5 Minimize Impacts of Towers, Transmission Facilities and Related Facilities
There is a demand for a variety of communications towers and above-ground or buried transmission facilities to serve the needs of all County residents. Among these are radio, television and microwave towers, water, sewer, gas, electric, telephone, cable TV and other lines, as well as a variety of non-linear facilities such as power plants, storage areas and treatment facilities. The location of these lines and facilities is often governed by geographic factors such as the need to respond to topography, make linear connections or serve defined areas. These facilities often have to be located outside of designated industrial areas and in areas without good access to emergency and other necessary services. In many cases, the visual impacts of these uses may be quite significant. There may also be concerns with other factors such as safety, noise, water quality, odor, or general air quality.
 
Goal 7.5 Allow for those towers, transmission lines and related facilities which provide a benefit to County residents in a manner which balances considerations of economics, equity, and environmental sensitivity and provide for the equitable compensation to private land owners for impacts caused by these facilities.
 
Policy 7.5.1
Encourage the multiple use of utility sites and corridors where feasible and appropriate.
 
Policy 7.5.2
Support the development and adoption of limited HB 1041 regulations for the purpose of providing the County with the authority necessary to directly address the location and land use impacts of public utility structures such as pipelines and electric transmission facilities.
Note: more specific and comprehensive policies pertaining to mining and mineral processing facilities are included in the County’s separate "Mineral Extraction Plan".
 


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