Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

It's a Go!

A comment on the public hearing process of Weld County. I don't get it, but they really don't seem very interested in preparing applicants for how the process is to proceed. What I know now compared to when we submitted our application is a lot, and a lot of it would have been useful up front. Can't they just have a FAQ somewhere?

I mention this because the first case of the day suffered an aparently unheard of, but yet potentially damaging effects today becuase of process. In their case, the applicants did nothing wrong. They showed up at their planning commission hearing, found their case on the "Consent Agenda", and happily sat quiet while it was approved defacto. Because cases listed on the consent agenda are assumed to be without contest and thus don't even need to be heard by the Planning Commission. Then they showed up today for their County Commissioner hearing, to be told that there was a problem with the first hearing in that the neighbors were not notified for the first hearing - so no wonder there was no public comment! The Commissioners discussed a bit about the ramifications of this glitch, but decided since there was proper notice for today's hearing, to continue.

They then informed the applicant that one of the five commissioners was not present and whether they wanted to proceed today or reschedule. Since at least 3 votes are needed for a decision, to proceed today meant they had to get 3 out of 4 votes, as opposed to 3 out of 5. The applicant said there was some confusion over the fact that there was public comment to be heard - which had come out of the blue to them since nothing was presented at the first hearing, and could that happen and THEN decide whether to proceed today. NO, they were directed that they were either in or out today. They chose to proceed. Well, 30 minutes go by of initial statements and questions from the commissioners, and then the first public comment guy gets up, who reiterated that none of the neighbors had known anything about this request until a week ago and they never got the chance to give their comments to the planning commission. Another 30 minutes then pass while the County Commissioners discuss this and decide that in fact the past hour had never taken place and that the case had to go back to the Planning Commission. BUMMER. Sucks even more because the applicant is in the fireworks business, and like, they have a vested interest in getting going on this application before, say, June/July. They promised to expidite their second round of hearings, and, oh by the way not charge the applicant more fees because the county has to re-post all this information. Nice of them.

The first stress of the day was the fact that there was only going to be 4 commissioners in attendance, so before the meeting began we were posed with the same question as to whether we'd like to reschedule. We certainly didn't want to, but we didn't understand the ramifications of having the hearing with fewer than all commissioners. We were told that unless we got 3 yes votes, then the commissioners not present would have to listen to the tapes and vote - but without the opportunity to ask us questions. We decided to proceed today. Then, we were told that one more commissioner was going to leave at noon, so they'd be down to 3 after lunch. Sure enough, the second case ended at 11:55 and we were third.

We were wondering what to do - hardly worth waiting around for an hour and a half if we were just going to reschedule, when the clerk came up to inform us that the 4th commissioner would come back after lunch. Whew.

One thing we did learn about process is that it is best to cut to the chase in your opening statements. We knew that noise was the major concern of the neighbors, so we've formed a noise mitigation plan. Ginger suggested yesterday that we actuallly write this up as one of the other many plans they've required us to get approved - such as waste management plan, landscaping plan, etc. So we put together a one paged plan. David had determined the distance to the 8 closest residences (using Weld County's awesome GIS website). I mapped that and attached it.

Well, nearly the first question out was how close was our nearest neighbor. This was asked of the planner when she was making her opening statements. This is the part I HATE. They sit there and debate, and talk, and pass papers around, when I could simply say that I have this information and will make it very clear - however, if you are sitting down you aren't supposed to talk. So they totally fudged it and finally moved on. When we got to make our statements I took my laptop up and asked if I could hijack the projector for a moment. WOAH. That's the first time anyone has made that request apparently. They got all nervous and then said, "I guess so". Then - wait for it - the attorney said they would need this information in hard copy too. Voila! We had come prepared with handouts.

Our neighbors to the south again made an appearance, but this time they were very much more prepared with a statement that described just about any and all possible negative impacts of our kennel request (again they stated no concerns over the horse operation). All the way to the fact that dogs might kill each other if are allowed to play together. Gosh, that seemed extreme. I was pretty much taken by surprise and it was all I could do to sit and look pleasant and concerned. Ginger, however, had the presence of mind to make notes about her points and then went up and countered a number of them expertly. They, however were the only ones to make an apperance, and two letters of concern had been submitted. In all fewer than at the planning commission.

The commissioners then reopened the 80 dog vs 60 dog argument started at the planning commission, finally asking if we'd be willing to agree to 60. We said yes. Soooo,

They said YES. Unanimously.

Happy Tails Dog Ranch is several giant steps further towards being a reality!



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