I have lived most of my life in this county, and have grown to love it. I look forward to its continued success and ability to create well paying jobs for those who live here. Having a plan for developing its economy is important to its continued success. The county has set forth the Land Use Code as a scaffold for accomplishing some of the things that are important to allow for structured growth. I have read this code and spoke with some staff and feel that the intent is a good one.
The opinion piece by the county in the paper recently portrayed the need for the county to set forth a code that would allow them to keep citizens and businesses safe by proper placing within the county, and to provide structured growth. This could be accomplished by the county using a zoning map along with district types as is in their code. This would resolve 90% of the intent that they have shared.
My problem extends from what I feel is an overreach by the county beyond its initial scope. It has gone beyond trying to structure growth, to dictating to its citizens that portions of everyone's yards and property must abide by a strict set of rules. The county staff says some of this is done due to the semi-public nature of these areas of oneís property. This is the wrong direction for the county to take. I am not alone, in this opinion. I have been told that the meeting on September 11th was attended by many citizens that expressed or held that same view. I am sure they are just a small percentage of the people that would agree.
I highly recommend that the citizens of the county look into the code. This code applies to all land owners where the county can enforce laws. It not only applies to the unincorporated portions of the county but to the incorporated municipalities as well. Specifically where its language is more restrictive than existing city ordinances and where the city ordinances donít expressly authorize the less restrictive use.
Under this code, depending on the size, the first 25í of a residential property, 10' feet from both sides and 20' from the rear, would equal to 75 feet around the property that would be restricted to what San Juan County decides should be there. For example, for a plot size of half an acre this could entail that 7,200 square feet of the property would be restricted to what is in the county's land use code table (permitted yard encroachments). I have to chuckle to myself when I think that I am not allowed to encroach in my own yard.
The problem is that they shouldn't be telling me what I should and shouldn't do with my property, beyond basic guidance for public safety, which isn't the case with this code. A good example is that the current version of the code is so strict that it wouldn't allow for weeds to grow or individuals to stand in those portions of the yard. I believe and have been assured by county staff that this is being corrected and that weed control is not the intent of the code. Oddly this conflicts with the statements that portions of the yard are semi-public while restricting most other items, but not weeds. I see those two points as contradictory.
I strive to keep an orderly yard, but sometimes I will be encroaching within these areas of my yard. Others are going to run into the same problem. Some people choose to live in the cities where there are greater restrictions and appreciate such restrictions. Others live in the county and live by many of those same restrictions, without strict ordinances. They may not be pleased with neighbor's yards, but are free to build fences to block that out if they choose. Neither I nor others that live in the County, particularly those in the unincorporated areas, should have portions of their land limited to what is listed in a short table. This comes down to basic freedoms. Some people would say that I am selfish to want to be in charge of my own land but some of those very same people would also fight for their right to bear arms or lower taxes. I support all of those.
If the county commissioners and staff desire to implement some sort of county zoning plan, I recommend scrapping portions of the current code. Instead, look at setting up a basic zoning map with district use types, while dropping all language related to required yards. This would serve their primary goals while limiting regulation directed at citizen's land. Although I am grateful for the county staff and commissioner's time and efforts in all they do, I can't support the code in its current form. I also encourage all citizens to look at the code and no matter what their opinions, for or against, contact their county commissioners and the county staff and share them.
Todd Mortensen II