An ongoing disagreement between the Elbert County Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners continues as the two bodies wrangle over bylaws.
The primary area of contention between the BOCC and the planning commission centers on …
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The primary area of contention between the BOCC and the planning commission centers on language written into the original draft by County Attorney Wade Gateley, which gives the BOCC final approval of the planning commission's bylaws and any amendments to them.
The planning commission removed the language from its latest draft but, at a meeting held on Dec. 16, delayed a vote for a second time in the month. It plans to review and vote on its version of the bylaws at its meeting on Jan. 20.
In a Dec. 17 letter signed by the three county commissioners, the BOCC reminded the planning commission members that they are an appointed body that functions in an advisory capacity to the BOCC, and that any recommendations made are nonbinding unless approved by a majority vote from the legislative body (the BOCC). The letter goes on to support the BOCC's position by citing case law from 1982 and 1996.
Though the letter presents the BOCC's position, establishing its legislative authority, it offers no specific course of action to the planning commission other than to have “any proposed recommendations” regarding the bylaws submitted to the BOCC no later than Jan. 22, 2015.
In a letter of reply to the BOCC, Richard Brown, speaking on his own behalf as a member of the Planning Commission, not only challenged the legitimacy of the BOCC's Dec. 17 letter but also contended that though the planning commission's advisory role applies to master plans, it does not extend to the planning commission's rule-making authority.
Brown first contends that the letter signed by the commissioners on Dec. 17 constituted public business and that any public business that took place at the study session following the special BOCC meeting was invalid, because the proceedings violated Colorado's Open Meetings Law (OML), specifically the provision for “full and timely notice to the public.”
Notice of the 30-minute special BOCC meeting was posted on Elbert County's website calendar page, but the agenda did not include the bylaw issue and a notice for the study session did not appear on the calendar.
“The apparent lack of such notice constitutes a violation of the OML and renders any action taken invalid,” wrote Brown.
In addition, while Brown acknowledges the planning commission's advisory role to the BOCC, he insists that the commission is well within its authority to establish its own bylaws without BOCC approval, citing wording in the statue stating, “The Planning Commission shall adopt such rules and regulations governing its proceeding as it may consider necessary and advisable.”
Brown wrote, “In the narrow area of planning commission rules and regulations there has been no delegation of legislative authority to the BOCC, and an effort by the Board to exercise such powers would violate C.R.S. sec. 30-28-104(1), the statute giving planning commissions rule-making authority.”
In response to Brown's concerns, District 3 County Commissioner Larry Ross said, “I'm going to recommend that we revisit the issues in question in a properly posted public meeting.”
The creation of bylaws in multiple departments within county government was directed by the BOCC. The move comes in response to recommendations made during the 2013 financial audit, urging the county to continue to formalize its business practices to support the ongoing improvements to its finances.
District 2 County Commissioner Kurt Schlegel had not seen Brown's letter, but confirmed in a voicemail to Elbert County News the BOCC's position regarding final approval of the bylaws. Schlegel also expanded his comments to include the BOCC's longer-term goals regarding the planning commission.
“They are an appointed body, and we are looking to streamline the process because it is very cumbersome at this point. We are trying to streamline the zoning regs to make it easier to for people to develop residential and commercial properties in the county, while still maintaining the high quality of life and the country-style living that all of our residents enjoy.”
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