As we begin the second half of the year, a number of important topics are going to be addresses by the elected official in Weld County.  Our new calendar page lists several of them, but in this brief summary, we add a little more detail.

July 10 will be a very busy day, potentially.  First, during the BOCC meeting, the Board will hold the Final Reading of proposed Ordinance 2019-02 which is a major revision of Chapter 23, the zoning chapter.  As we have written before, major changes are being considered, many of which place restrictions on the allowed uses under the Use by Special Review process.  Several activities that have previously been permitted under that process will no longer be allowed in the AG zone.  As Commissioner Kirkmeyer has said, “AG will no longer mean ‘Anything Goes.’” Although the BOCC gave serious consideration to a number of uses, one of the interesting cases is small scale solar facilities, which were being considered for an industrial zone only requirement.  After much discussion, the BOCC decided not to change the current status, and to continue to allow solar facilities covering as much as 10 acres to submit applications for USR permits. 

One of the most apparent changes is the wording used to describe a USR in the agricultural zone.  The previous language essentially made the ag zone itself irrelevant:

“A Site Specific Development Plan and Use by Special Review Permit, XX-XXXX, for a Use permitted as a Use by Right, Accessory Use or Use by Special Review in the Commercial or Industrial Zone Districts”

Whereas the new language explicitly addresses one of the criteria for a USR in the ag zone:

“A Site Specific Development Plan and Use by Special Review Permit, USRXX-XXXX, for Processing and a Use Similar to Uses by Special Review in the A (Agricultural) Zone District as long as the Use complies with the general intent of the A (Agricultural) Zone District”

After that meeting, a Land Use Hearing , USR19-0015, begins at about 10AM.  The first scheduled case is for a production facility for hemp. This may be one of the first such cases of hemp production in the County. We don’t know if it will be controversial or not, but it could be interesting. 

Later in that hearing, another case is certain to be controversial:  USR18-0130 is for the 1041 permit for the Thornton Water pipeline.  This portion of the pipeline is the southern end only, extending from WCR 2 to Highway 66, more or less following WCR17.  You may know that Larimer County recently denied Thornton’s planned pipeline, which would have withdrawn their water from the Poudre upstream of Fort Collins. And when this case was before the Weld County Planning Commission, it was an extended hearing that initially did not gain approval, but on a second vote passed with a 5-3 vote. 

The excitement ramps up again on July 22, when the required ordinance changes related to the new Oil and Gas policy in Weld County will receive their final reading.  While there was substantial community comment at the first reading, the second reading was pretty quiet with only two citizens raising concerns, especially about the new million dollar budget for the O&G department, and a similarly limited group of supporters speaking at the meeting. It will be interesting to see who shows up for the third reading.

Two days later, on the 24th of July, the BOCC will consider another controversial 1041 case—the Xcel transmission line, USR18-0100. This application was recommended for DENIAL by the planning commission. If you are interested in reviewing the minutes from the PC meeting, you can do so here:

Weld County Planning Commission minutes 6-18-19

This case is controversial for a couple of reasons.  First, of course, the routing of this major project is a problem.  But, secondly, one of the Rights of Way traverses Commissioner Mike Freeman’s property, for which he is paid a royalty, according to papers he submitted to the State. Therefore, we expect that he will have to recuse himself from the vote leaving only 4 commissioners. In that case, as in all decisions, at least 3 commissioners must vote to approve the permit, or else it is denied. Because of the objections, especially of the Town of Eaton, it is not clear that Xcel will garner the necessary 3 votes for approval.

This will be an interesting day.