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Master Plan

6. Environmental Resources and Hazards

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6.1 Resource Inventory and Environmental Review
       6.1.1 Environmental Checklist
       6.1.2 Rare and Endangered Species
       6.1.3 Cumulative Impacts
6.2 Ecosystems and Habitat Conservation
       6.2.1 Wetlands
       6.2.2 Important Wildlife Habitat
       6.2.3 Colorado Natural Heritage Program
       6.2.4 Human-Wildlife Interaction
6.3 Hazard Areas
       6.3.1 Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Areas
6.4 Mineral Resources
6.5 Air Quality
6.6 Water Quality and Quantity
6.7 Noise, Glare and Odor Conditions
6.8 Special Places: Archaeological, Cultural and Aesthetic Resources
6.9 Guiding Principles and Implementing Strategies For Environmental Resources and Hazards


Concern for protecting environmental resources has been expressed throughout the citizen participation portion of the PLUS project. In the past, County resource protection has been accomplished on a case-by-case basis, as part of the development review process. The County has lacked detailed mapping of sensitive environmental resources and explicit policies and standards to ensure protection of the resources judged to be most important.

The Environmental Advisory Board (EAB), a citizen board appointed by the County Commissioners, is responsible for identifying gaps and opportunities in County actions involving environmental issues. As part of its contribution to the PLUS process, the EAB prepared recommendations concerning protection of natural and cultural resources to be incorporated in the Master Plan and the Land Use Code. The EAB recommended a six-step strategy for resource protection:

  1. Define resources.
  2. Inventory resources.
  3. Analyze impacts.
  4. Define tools for protection and mitigation.
  5. Consider cumulative impacts.
  6. Monitor the impact of development.
The EAB also identified several categories of resources that the County should identify, conserve and protect because of their importance to the quality of life of Larimer County residents and their value in protecting public health and safety. The full recommendation of the Environmental Advisory Board is available in the Planning Department.

In keeping with the EAB report, the Master Plan pulls together new and existing information on environmental resources and provides definitions and principles for identifying priorities for protection.

A framework for environmental review at the initial stage of development applications is proposed as a strategy to link environmental principles to development design and approval. Principles to aid in the development of explicit performance standards for resource protection and mitigation in the Land Use Code are also included.

6.1 Resource Inventory and Environmental Review

In the words of the Environmental Advisory Board report, "landowners, developers and the County share in the responsibility to protect the environment." To this end, it is important to identify resources and conditions that are potentially impacted by proposed development in the initial stages of the project. This process provides the best resource protection and is also fair to the developer. Early identification of possible adverse impacts helps avoid costly redesign of the project later in the review process. This environmental review will be a formal process, based on standards contained in the Land Use Code, to ensure that the environmental review is fairly and equitably applied to all development projects.

6.1.1 Environmental Checklist

The environmental review will include resources and conditions mapped and/or identified or defined by the County, and for which local, State or Federal standards exist. Other environmental resources and values identified by the EAB and others may become subject to this process in the future through Land Use Code amendments as additional information becomes available. The following resources will be included on an environmental checklist and mapped on the sketch plan as part of the initial development review application. Maps of these resources are available at the County Planning Department. The type and source of information is described in more detail in the following sections.

Resources for Environmental Checklist:

  • 100-Year Flood Plains
  • Geologic Hazards and Topography
  • Wildfire Hazards
  • Cultural Resources and Geologic Features
  • Wetlands
  • Important Wildlife Habitat and Corridors
  • Rare and Endangered Plants and Animals (Colorado Natural Heritage Program Inventory)
  • Commercial Mineral Resources
Other important environmental resources, such as visual resources, exist and may be amended to the database once approved.

It should be noted that the mapped resource information available through and adopted by the County is generally at a scale and level of accuracy to indicate the need for additional study but not to delineate precise resource area boundaries at the development project level. Resource information will be used as a "red flag" during the initial environmental review process.

6.1.2 Rare and Endangered Species

The development review process will support State and Federal standards and regulations regarding rare and endangered species, including vegetative communities. The data base established through the Colorado Natural Heritage Program of Wildlife and Plant Communities of State and National Importance will be the initial indication of the existence of a protected species (see Section 6.2, Ecosystems and Habitat Conservation). All new development projects will be referred to the Division of Wildlife at the initial stage of application. Any subsequent indication that a protected species is present on the site will require further investigation and referral to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If a protected species is present on the site, a mitigation plan will be required.

6.1.3 Cumulative Impacts

In addition to considering the resources existing on a potential development site and the impacts that development might have on them, it is important to address cumulative impacts on resources. One subdivision in an area may have a negligible impact on wildlife habitat. Yet as subdivisions accumulate on nearby parcels, the habitat may become so fragmented that it no longer supports some species.

In general, there are two aspects of cumulative impacts: temporal and spatial. Temporal cumulative impacts are those that accumulate over time. Spatial cumulative impacts, in this context, consider impacts beyond a given development site. In most cases, both types of cumulative impacts are present.

The PLUS planning process addresses these two aspects of cumulative impacts differently. The spatial aspects of cumulative impacts generally require considering an area larger than the individual development parcel. For some resource types (see Section 6.2, Air Quality) the necessary area is so large that a regional planning approach is needed to assess cumulative impacts. For many resources, however, such as habitat and wetlands, knowledge of the system off-site can lead to better resource protection through site design. The strategy for addressing spatial cumulative impacts has five parts:

  1. Continue to improve maps of County resources, to better understand the connections between individual ownership parcels.
  2. Use resource protection as the primary criterion for designing clustered development, to protect resources both on- and off-site.
  3. Define management practices for resource protection that consider both on- and off-site impacts.
  4. Initiate and participate in regional studies and implementation strategies concerned with resource protection.
  5. Where feasible and appropriate, identify specific high-priority resources and long-term plans for managing and protecting them.
To address temporal cumulative impacts, the primary strategy is monitoring and evaluating the generalized impact of development on the natural and cultural environment. The results over time can be used to adjust standards and management practices to continually improve the protection system. Monitoring must occur in two separate contexts:
  1. Examining the status of indicators for natural and cultural resources as they exist and function in the County.
  2. Ensuring that new development is constructed and maintained so that it complies with performance standards and conditions of approval designed to protect the resources.
The Environmental Advisory Board suggests that "monitoring the status of the natural and cultural environment can best be accomplished through a partnership with government and private organizations and a commitment to perform specific monitoring where data are not available" (see 7.2, Monitoring and Evaluation).

Designing a meaningful monitoring system will require additional research and input from several fields of expertise. This process should have a high priority, so data can begin to accumulate after adoption of the new Land Use Code. Monitoring the development process for compliance with conditions of approval will require adequate commitments of budget and staffing. One possible source of funding for project monitoring is a dedicated fee collected at the time of final project approval.

6.2 Ecosystems and Habitat Conservation

6.2.1 Wetlands

Within the Front Range Study Area, priority has been given to inventorying wetlands. These environmental resources are among the most environmentally important ecosystems in the area and also the most vulnerable to development pressures. Ecological consultants were retained to inventory and map wetland resources in the Front Range Study Area and recommend a strategy for protection. The resulting map and report, Proposed Wetland Classification and Protection Program, David J. Cooper, Ph.D., and David M. Merritt, M.S., March 29, 1996, are available in the Planning Department.

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The classification system used in the wetlands mapping incorporates both the Clean Water Act (CWA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) wetland definitions, as well as a local classification system designed to quantify the importance and function of each wetland.

CWA wetlands are defined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as those areas inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. These wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas. CWA wetlands are regulated by the Clean Water Act, and activities which might result in disturbance of these resources activate a permit process through the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) defines wetlands as land transitions between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. FWS wetlands must have one or more of the following three attributes:

  1. At least periodically, the land supports predominantly hydrophytes.
  2. The substrate is predominantly undrained hydric soil.
  3. The substrate is non-soil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at some time during the growing season of each year.
The FWS definition was used in addition to the CWA definition to include riparian areas, salt flats, vernal pools and farmed and other disturbed wetlands in the survey.
The wetlands study also evaluates the wetlands using three factors:
  • wetland importance,
  • wetland quality and
  • wetland sensitivity.
"Importance" rates wetland functionality in terms of sediment trapping and nutrient retention, flood storage, bank stability, food chain support, wildlife habitat and recreation. "Quality" ranks disturbance state and restoration potential. "Sensitivity" relates to sensitivity to human use.
Using these three factors, all identified wetlands received a rating of I (lowest) to IV (highest). Of 294 wetlands identified and rated, 34 received the highest rating (IV) and 127 received the second highest overall rating (III). Nearly all of the Class IV wetlands were CWA wetlands. Most of the wetlands receiving the lowest rating were gravel quarries, irrigation ditches or plowed vernal pools.
The principal method of protecting wetlands and riparian areas is to require a Wetland Mitigation Plan for any development which impacts an identified wetland area. Requirements and performance standards for Wetland Mitigation Plans will be included in the Land Use Code. They will address the possibility of off-site mitigation of wetland loss through replacement or restoration of degraded wetlands.

6.2.2 Important Wildlife Habitat

For many years, Larimer County has endeavored to protect wildlife through the development review process. New development requests have been reviewed by the Division of Wildlife, and project design has been used to mitigate negative impact on known species using the site. This approach has had many successes but is limited in its ability to deal with cumulative impacts of development, both beyond the project site and over time. The Master Plan recommends two changes to enhance wildlife protection:
  1. The new pattern of clustered development, using the Rural Conservation Development model, is expected to significantly reduce the area of habitat disturbance from development.
  2. Mapping high priority habitat, including corridors where applicable, will assist the County in using a wide range of resource protection tools to protect the County's most important habitat areas.
In the future, a third step will be to develop specific standards for habitat and species protection, based on the priorities established in the habitat mapping project.

Setting priorities for habitat conservation requires making decisions about which types of habitat are most important. Larimer County has had the assistance of a cooperative County / Division of Wildlife project, known as the System for Conservation Planning (SCoP), in developing maps of important habitat. Four criteria have been selected as the basis for determining habitat priorities:
 

  1. Rare vegetation types. Rather than attempting to design conservation plans for the more than 400 species of vertebrates in Larimer County, important habitat maps focus on the species' associated vegetation communities. Highest priority goes to protecting vegetative communities that are rare and stand in the path of development.
  2. Areas known to contain rare and threatened species. There are areas of the County where populations of rare and imperiled species are known to live. Loss of these areas of habitat will threaten the existence of these species within the County, the region or even globally. The Colorado Natural Heritage Program has conducted an inventory of rare plants and animals in the County. This inventory provides maps of conservation sites ranked according to urgency of protection (see 6.2.3).
  3. Areas supporting an unusually large number of species. Some areas of Larimer County support many different species of wildlife - that is, they have high species diversity. Protecting these areas will achieve greater conservation than areas of low diversity.
  4. Areas providing habitat for species of importance to the people of Larimer County. This criteria includes areas that are moderately to highly impacted by development and known migration corridors. The following specific areas are included:
    • Pronghorn concentration areas
    • Mule deer winter concentration areas
    • Elk severe winter range
    • Duck winter range
    • Bighorn sheep lambing areas
    • Mule deer migration corridors
    • Elk migration corridors

6.2.3 Colorado Natural Heritage Program

The Colorado Natural Heritage Program has mapped plant and animal communities of State and National Importance within Larimer County. This mapping project included preliminary identification of sites from existing data and interpretation from aerial photographs. At least one site visit was conducted on identified sites where permission was obtained from private property owners (the majority of properties). The information from this program includes recommendations for resource management/stewardship plans to protect resources of the area. The data from the SCoP Project and the Heritage Program will be used together to identify important natural resources on and adjacent to development sites and to assist in development design to best protect the wildlife and their habitat.

6.2.4 Human-Wildlife Interaction

An important component of identifying habitat and developing management plans for development is human/wildlife interactions: As the urban-wildland interface continues to be developed, encounters with wildlife occupying those areas are increasing. The result has been predation on and by human pets, damage to vegetation and property by feeding animals, concerns about disease transmission, and increasing calls by the community for the removal or destruction of wildlife. For development proposals on the urban-wildland interface, management plans should specifically address these concerns and reduce detrimental human-wildlife interaction.

6.3 Hazard Areas

Hazard areas, or areas prone to natural disturbance, occur throughout Larimer County. These natural disturbances include wildfire, flooding, avalanche, landslide, rockfall, mud flow and debris fans, unstable or potentially unstable slopes, seismic effects, radioactivity, ground subsidence and expansive soils and rock.

The classification of hazard areas generally depends on the consequences of the natural disturbance upon life and property. "Severe" hazard areas are where the natural disturbance poses a significant threat to health, life, limb or property. "Moderate" hazard areas occur where there is not a significant threat to life or limb but where there can be intolerable damage to property. In addition, there are areas where natural conditions may cause significant harm to health or property but where mitigation efforts can successfully eliminate the potential impact. These areas are classified as "Constraint" areas. The following definitions are used in the Master Plan and the Land Use Code:

  • Severe Hazard Areas: Flood Way (FW) zoning districts as adopted on official zoning maps; areas classified as 5, 6, or 7 on the official Geologic Hazards Maps adopted by the Board of County Commissioners; slopes greater than 30 percent.
  • Moderate Hazard Areas: Flood Fringe (FF) zoning districts as adopted on official zoning maps; areas classified as 3 or 4 on the official Geologic Hazards Maps adopted by the Board of County Commissioners; slopes 20 - 30 percent, dam breach areas.
  • Constraint Areas: Areas of expansive soil and rock, radon areas.
Many of the hazard areas in Larimer County have been mapped and the severity of the potential natural disturbance classified. The Board of County Commissioners has previously adopted official Geologic Hazard Maps and Wildfire Hazard Maps (Resolution Adopting Hazard Area Regulation, June 21, 1976), as well as Zoning Resolutions delineating the 100-year flood plain at various dates. In areas where hazard mapping is not complete and for hazard types which have not been mapped, such as dam breach areas, the applicant will be required to provide additional information when a County referral agency (e.g., State Geologist or State Engineer) indicates that a hazard is located on the project site.

With the exception of the 100-Year Flood Maps prepared under direction of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), the hazard area mapping currently adopted by Larimer County is at a scale and level of detail that makes it a "red flag" for further investigation. It is not sufficient to delineate precise hazard areas at the site level. Where the adopted mapping indicates that a hazard or constraint area exists on a site under consideration for development, the applicant is responsible for providing sufficient information as part of the development application to locate and classify the extent of the hazard area on the property and to demonstrate that the potential natural disturbance for that area has been successfully avoided or mitigated.

6.3.1 Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Areas

The potential for loss of life and property due to wildfire has increased dramatically along the Front Range of Colorado, as more and more residents choose to live in the foothill and mountain areas. Using historical wildfire occurrence as a reference, Larimer County can expect approximately 20 wildfires greater than 100 acres in size every ten years. Wildfire location, potential loss of life and property, and suppression costs are only speculation. However, more and more homes are threatened by wildfire each year in Larimer County. Pingree Park, Colorado State University's mountain campus, lost 13 buildings to the Hourglass Fire in 1994. In 1996, a relatively "wet" year, an estimated 50 to 60 rural homes were threatened by wildfire.

The wildland / urban interface is defined as an area or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels. Larimer County has an estimated 148,000 acres of wildland / urban interface. Fifty-seven percent of the over 200 subdivisions in this area have a high fire-loss potential.

Colorado State statutes designate the county sheriff as "fire warden" on state and private lands. Therefore Larimer County is responsible for wildfire suppression and associated costs. Large wildfires often cause the County to rely on contingency funds.

Wildfire hazard areas have been mapped and used in Larimer County's development review process since the early 1970s. However, increased public concern and rising costs have led the County to adopt a more comprehensive approach to wildfire hazards than for other hazard types. Although certain areas can be identified with a high risk for wildfire, wildfire mitigation is important even in "low-hazard" areas. For example, high winds during wildfire episodes can carry embers for long distances and ultimately threaten lives and property.

In 1995, the Larimer County Building Code was amended to define a "wildfire roofing area" where fire-resistant roofing materials are required on new structures. The County Wildfire Mitigation Coordinator and a citizen task force recommend using this wildfire roofing area as a Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Area. Development in this area would require wildfire-sensitive subdivision design, creation of defensible space around structures and use of fire-resistant construction materials. Improvement of fire protection services is encouraged. (See also 4.1, Fire Protection and Emergency Response.)

6.4 Mineral Resources

The General Assembly of Colorado states in C.R.S. 34-1-301 that commercial mineral deposits are essential to the state's economy, and these deposits should be extracted according to a rational plan that avoids waste of the minerals and causes the least practicable disruption of the ecology and quality of life of the citizens of the areas affected. Section 34-1-304 requires counties to develop a master plan for the extraction of commercial mineral deposits. This section and the following Guiding Principles are intended to fulfill that statutory obligation.

The mineral extraction plan is to facilitate preservation and protection of the County's commercial mineral deposits from encroachment by incompatible land uses that would limit the options of future decision makers in considering the demand for aggregate resources. At the same time, applicants for an extractive use in an aggregate resource area must address all environmental and compatibility issues to be assured of approval. Also, nothing in the designation of aggregate resource areas is intended to preclude approval of applications for extractive uses outside the designated areas which meet all County requirements.

Beyond protecting areas of known mineral resources for eventual extraction, Larimer County is critically interested in the reclamation of sites after the resources are removed. The State Mined Land Reclamation Board has developed standards and procedures for reclamation plans. Within its authority, the County will work with mining permit applicants to identify appropriate uses and landscape forms for the reclamation plan. Preferred uses are those consistent with an adopted land use plan or providing quality recreation or open space and wildlife habitat opportunities.
In defining "commercial mineral deposits," the following factors are considered:

  1. Aggregate resources as mapped by Schwochow et al., Colorado Geological Survey, 1974.
  2. Wetlands and critical riparian areas and wildlife habitat (see Section 6.2 above).
  3. Size of the potential area.
  4. Existing development that effectively precludes extraction.
  5. Other site-specific factors rendering extraction inappropriate in light of the countervailing factors listed in C.R.S. 34-1-304(1), including the quality of life of the residents in and around areas which contain commercial mineral deposits and the ability to reclaim the area.
State statutes emphasize aggregate resources for protection and have required mapping of these mineral resources by the Colorado Geological Survey. Other important mineral resources exist in Larimer County that have not yet been inventoried in the same manner. All applications for extractive activities will be considered according to the Guiding Principles below.

6.5 Air Quality

In 1994, the Board of County Commissioners asked the Environmental Advisory Board's Air Quality Task Force to provide ideas for development of a Countywide Air Quality Policy. The Commissioners also asked the Task Force to examine the issue of air flow patterns as a means of defining potential areas sensitive to development pressures. The Air Quality Task Force presented its findings in the 1994 Annual Report of the Environmental Advisory Board. The recommendations most relevant to growth management and land use issues are summarized below.

The Task Force noted that rapid growth is having a significant impact on air quality, with most impacts associated with the increase in the number of vehicles used. Other than transportation-related sources, there are concerns with stationary sources of air toxins, including light industrial uses such as cabinet making and industries which manufacture and support high technology. Another source is emissions from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.

The EAB determined that the complex science of airshed definition, including the fact that sources and resultant affected areas can be great distances apart, make this approach impractical as a land use planning tool. However, "while the state of the science does not exist to reasonably and cost-effectively evaluate air quality impacts of individual proposed developments, the causes of air pollution are well defined. Criteria on developments can be imposed through the current planning review process. Paving streets, prohibiting wood burning stoves and fireplaces, dust control during construction, etc., can be required in new developments." (1994 Annual Report, Environmental Advisory Board).

In its recommendations concerning natural and cultural resources for PLUS, the EAB suggested a number of techniques directly related to the land use and development process. Those techniques include: requiring applicants to evaluate their proposal for conformance with existing air pollution standards, and, controlling dust emissions during the construction phase. The EAB also recommended using site design, area planning and travel demand management practices to reduce or eliminate sources of air emissions (such as average daily vehicle trips) for large-scale developments such as may occur in urban areas or in large clustered areas which are reviewed as area plans..

6.6 Water Quality and Quantity

Water quality is essential to the health, welfare and quality of life of Larimer County residents. Local, State and Federal standards exist for water quality and the development review process will insure compliance with these standards. Polluted runoff has the potential to impact both surface and groundwater supplies. Existing County requirements for erosion and drainage control will be augmented in the Land Use Code with a requirement that applicants show they have obtained a Colorado Stormwater Permit for construction activities, industrial uses and mining activities that meet thresholds under State law. Colorado Stormwater permits require applicants to identify and carry out appropriate best management practices to minimize polluted runoff from their sites.
Because of their relationship to public health and safety, drinking water sources should be provided the highest achievable levels of environmental protection. The County will support municipal authority to maintain the quality of domestic water supplies. The Land Use Code will provide regulations concerning the discharge of stormwater into a water supply reservoir. Water quality management plans will be required to address water chemistry, as well as sediment transport and control.

Water quantity impacts will be addressed in the Land Use Code through administration of the Flood Plain Resolution and the Stormwater Management Manual, both of which will be incorporated into the Code. The hydrologic charts in the Stormwater Management Manual are scheduled for review as part of the development of the Code. The issue of stormwater management facilities is addressed in Sec. 4.1.6.

In addition, uses with the potential to negatively affect groundwater levels, such as mining operations, will be required to provide evidence acceptable to the State's Division of Water Resources that impacts will be acceptable. Larimer County is also very interested in maintaining the historic amount of water - both for agricultural and other uses - in the basins serving the County. A Task Force has been convened to explore the issue of potential future water diversions.

6.7 Noise, Glare and Odor Conditions

Noise, glare and odor conditions are an important component of the health, safety and quality of life of Larimer County residents. As new development occurs, existing residents should be protected from unreasonable changes in conditions beyond the property boundaries of the development site. Performance standards will define permissible levels of noise, glare and odors which apply to all zoning districts and all use classifications.

6.8 Special Places: Archaeological, Cultural and Aesthetic Resources

Larimer County contains a wealth of geologic historic, archaeological and paleontologic resources, some of which are included on the State and Federal Registers of Historic Places. These Registers are voluntary, incentive-based programs which may offer tax breaks or grants to help protect the integrity of historic structures and sites. The majority of Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Larimer County. The Larimer County Comprehensive Parks Master Plan, October 1993, also identifies Landmarks, Colorado Natural Areas Program Sites and Historic/Cultural Resources. The Environmental Review checklist (see 6.2 above) will include identification of any mapped or registered sites or structures on or within 1200 feet of the proposed development site, as well as other known landmarks of local interest.

The great outdoors ...

Every effort will be made to maintain the integrity of the identified landmark. In the case of those on State or Federal Registers, the developer will be encouraged to maintain the structure or site in a manner consistent with program guidelines. Wherever possible, landmarks will be considered amenities to the development site. Issues of ownership, access and maintenance will be considered as appropriate for each individual development. In the case of geologic features, the applicant and staff will work together on a site-specific basis to maintain these unique features in recognition of their irreplaceable character and importance to the quality of life in the County. These features provide amenities to the development site as well as to the County as a whole.

In the future, Larimer County may wish to develop a local register of historic, archaeological and palentological sites and, if warranted, create a voluntary overlay Historic District zone. The Historic District zone could be tied to an incentive program to assist landowners in maintaining cultural resources. The County may also wish to consider further identification of other special features of the landscape including unique geologic features and viewscapes. A specific and important feature in this category is ridgelines. The identification process shall include guidelines for protecting the features. The process would require amendments to the Master Plan and the Land Use Code, after appropriate public review.

A number of citizens have expressed a strong interest in protecting ridgelines from development and the Master Plan supports ridgeline protection as a goal. This issue is very complex and involves subjects such as quality of life, private property rights, fairness and compensation. A detailed citizen process is necessary to move this process forward and fully consider the subjects noted above. As one part of the ridgeline protection strategy, Larimer County has joined with four other counties in a planning project, called the Mountain Backdrop Study, to identify key preservation elements of the foothills landscape in a broad, conceptual manner. These are called Critical Preservation Candidate Lands. The second phase of the Mountain Backdrop Study, which is just beginning, is designed to involve individual landowners in a process to develop recommendations and strategies for appropriate tools and opportunities for protection of Candidate Lands on a willing landowner basis.

6.9 Guiding Principles and Implementing Strategies For Environmental Resources and Hazards

In the section below, each primary paragraph (in bold type) is a statement of principle. The subparagraphs are strategies for implementing the principle.
 
ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS 

ER-1 Resources and environmental conditions potentially impacted by proposed development shall be identified in the initial stages of the project, to best design a development that protects the environment. 

ER-1-s1 Environmental review shall be a formal required process beginning at the concept stage of all new development projects. Applicants will submit a checklist indicating which environmental resources and conditions will have significant, mitigable or no significant impact. In addition, resource information available from the Planning Department, pertaining to the project site and the area at least 1200 feet beyond project boundaries, shall be included on the concept plan submitted with the application. 

ER-1-s2 Resources and conditions to be included in the Environmental Review shall be identified in the Land Use Code. Performance standards for these resources shall also be included in the Code. As additional information becomes available, new maps, principles and standards will be developed for the Master Plan and Land Use Code. 

ER-2 Monitoring of environmental conditions is a critical part of the environmental protection strategy.  

ER-2-s1 A process for identifying and monitoring key environmental factors shall be established to validate the success of environmental performance standards. The results of the monitoring process shall be used as the basis for subsequent amendments to the Master Plan and Land Use Code. 

ER-2-s2 Monitoring during the development process is necessary to ensure compliance with performance standards. The Planning Department will incorporate this function into its proposed work plan and budget. Adequate staffing will benefit both the developer and citizenry by providing a level playing field and consistency of monitoring and enforcement. 

WETLAND PROTECTION 

ER-3 Larimer County shall endeavor to protect all identified wetland areas of the County, in recognition of their importance in maintaining water quality, wildlife habitat, flood protection and other critical environmental functions. 

ER-3-s1 Larimer County wetlands shall be defined to include both Clean Water Act (CWA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) wetland areas. Wetlands shall include swamps, marshes, bogs, riparian areas, salt flats, vernal pools and farmed and other disturbed wetland areas, as more specifically described in the Proposed Wetland Classification and Protection Program, March 1996, prepared by David J. Cooper, Ph.D. and David M. Merritt, M.S. 

ER-3-s2 The Wetland Map, adopted by reference as part of the Master Plan, shall be the basis for the initial Environmental Review process, which is required for all new development projects. County staff and the landowner will work together on a case-by-case basis to identify and prioritize those other wetlands that do not appear on the Wetland Map due to scale and size limitations, and in areas not yet inventoried. 

ER-3-S3 A Wetland Mitigation Plan shall be developed for any development project which impacts a wetland. Requirements and performance standards for the mitigation plan shall be clearly established in the Land Use Code, and shall be the basis for approval of that plan. 

WILDLIFE HABITAT PROTECTION 

ER-4 Larimer County shall endeavor to protect all areas identified as highest priority on the Important Wildlife Habitat Map, which is adopted by reference as part of the Master Plan.  

ER-4-s1 The County will use a wide variety of tools available, including clustering and the Rural Land Use Process, in a manner that is fair to property owners. 

ER-4-s2 The adopted Important Wildlife Habitat Map, available in the Planning Department, shall be the basis for the initial Environmental Review process, required for all new development projects.  

ER-4-s3 A Wildlife Impact Mitigation Plan shall be developed for any development project which impacts an Important Habitat, or which presents concerns of detrimental human-wildlife interaction. Requirements and performance standards for the mitigation plan shall be clearly established in the Land Use Code and shall be the basis for approval of the plan. 

HAZARD AREAS 

ER-5 Approval of development in hazard areas shall require a finding that the proposed development is compatible with the potential hazards and that future owners or the County shall not be subject to safety hazards or economic costs associated with development related to the natural disturbance. 

ER-5-s1 Structures for human use or occupation shall not locate in severe hazard areas. These areas shall be avoided in development plans. In Rural Conservation Development and Rural Land Use Process applications, open space areas shall be located where severe hazard areas exist. In addition, restrictions shall be placed on activities that might increase the potential for natural disturbance. 

ER-5-s2 Moderate hazard areas shall be avoided wherever possible or the potential disturbance adequately mitigated. The Land Use Code shall establish guidelines for mitigation plans and require that the plans be reviewed by professionals having demonstrated expertise in the appropriate field, i.e., geology or wildfire management. 

ER-5-s3 Potential disturbances shall be eliminated in constraint areas as part of the development design process. Approval of development in constraint areas shall be conditional, based on adequate mitigation of the potential natural disturbance. Strategies for follow-up monitoring to ensure that mitigation has occurred shall be incorporated when appropriate. 

ER-6 New development in wildfire hazard areas shall be designed to create communities less susceptible to loss of life and property from wildfire. 

ER-6-s1 All new development in designated wildfire hazard areas shall complete and implement a wildfire mitigation plan specific to that development. Mitigation plan standards and guidelines shall be clearly established in the Land Use Code and shall be the basis for plan approval. Standards shall include provisions for emergency equipment access and year-round water supply. 

ER-7 Structures in wildfire hazard areas shall be designed to minimize the potential for loss of life and property from wildfire. 

ER-7-s1 Building codes shall be modified to include site planning and construction materials appropriate to reduce wildfire hazards. Homes built in wildfire hazard areas shall be designed to include defensible space and fire-resistant construction materials. Standards and guidelines for defensible space and fire-resistant construction materials shall be established. 

MINERAL RESOURCES 

ER-8 Larimer County shall protect its commercial mineral resources, pursuant to 34-1-302(1) C.R.S.  

ER-8-s1 "Commercial mineral resources" are defined as areas delineated as "F1" and "T1"deposits, pursuant to 34-1-302(1) C.R.S., on the Aggregate Resource Maps, Schwochow et al., Colorado Geological Survey, 1974.  

ER-8-s2 Aggregate Resource Areas shall be those underlain by "commercial mineral resources." Aggregate Resource Areas shall not include the following lands:  

1) Wetlands identified and mapped as Class III or IV on adopted Wetland Maps, and their required buffer areas. 
2) Critical wildlife habitat areas, as identified and adopted in the Master Plan or on a site specific basis. 
3) Public open space areas. 
4) Areas where existing development effectively precludes extraction or where extraction has been completed. 
5) Areas within Growth Management Areas where existing or previous capital improvement commitments effectively preclude mineral resource development. 
6) Areas or parcels remaining after the exclusions contained in 1 through 5 above, where the contiguous surface area underlain by a commercial mineral deposit is 20 acres or less. 
7) Any specific site where the mineral extraction of a commercial mineral deposit would not be appropriate in light of the countervailing factors listed in 34-1-304(1), C.R.S.  

ER-9 Intensive land uses shall be strongly discouraged in Aggregate Resource Areas, including residential subdivision of land into lots of less than 35 acres.  

ER-9-s1 Aggregate Resource Areas may be included in required open space areas for Rural Conservation Development and Rural Land Use Process applications after extraction and reclamation is complete, but extraction activities shall be complete prior to approval of a subdivision request. 

ER-10 All applications for an extractive use, whether within a designated Aggregate Resource Area or not, shall be subject to County regulation including Special Review.  

ER-10-s1 The requirement for special review shall include sub-surface and open mining for any mineral or earthen material and mining of any mineral by means of in situ leaching, as well as all accessory activities related thereto.  

ER-10-s2 Special review for an extractive use will consider both on- and off-site impacts to natural resources, adjacent uses and public facilities. 

ER-11 In cooperation with the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board and its staff, the County shall require that all "affected land" as defined by Colorado Statute, be reclaimed whether the mining activity is open or subsurface mining.  

ER-11-s1 Within its authority, the County will work with special review applicants to establish appropriate uses and landscapes for reclamation sites. The goal of the reclamation plan shall be to return the site to a use that is a benefit to the community and the landowner. 

AIR QUALITY  

ER-12 Larimer County shall use cooperative efforts, development standards and incentive programs to protect air quality.  

ER-12-s1 Larimer County shall continue to participate in regional air quality and transportation planning efforts and to implement recommendations agreed to by the regional councils.  

ER-12-s2 All new development shall comply with local, State and Federal air quality standards. No new development expected to create particulate levels above State standards on unpaved roads shall be approved. Commercial and industrial uses shall meet all applicable permitting requirements prior to final approval of uses. See also Section 5.3, Transportation Improvements Program, regarding road paving to reduce particulate levels.  

ER-13 Development proposals shall minimize negative air quality impacts to the maximum extent possible.  

ER-13-s1 The Land Use Code shall require applicants to address mitigation of potential air quality impacts for large-scale developments and to implement management practices to reduce or eliminate sources of air emissions. Incentives to encourage use of alternative modes of transportation shall be incorporated into all new development design to the maximum extent possible. The County shall identify design and management practices appropriate for reducing air emissions for large-scale developments.  

ER-13-s2 Development applicants shall comply with State requirements for controlling dust emissions during the construction phase of development. The Land Use Code shall reference performance standards for dust control. 

WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY 

ER-14 Water quality shall be protected by analyzing potential impacts of development proposals, the application of best management practices to reduce or control sources of contamination, and a demonstration of compliance with local, State and Federal requirements.  

ER-14-s1 Applicants for new development shall address potential water quality impacts for properties that contain surface water or have the potential to impact surface or groundwater quality. A water quality management plan shall be included as part of the stormwater report in the development review process.  

ER-14-s2 Drinking water sources shall be provided the highest achievable levels of environmental protection. Stormwater from new developments must not be discharged into a drinking water supply reservoir unless it can be demonstrated that water quality will not be impaired. Water quality management plans shall address water chemistry, as well as sediment transport and control. 

ER-14-s3 Local and State requirements for individual on-site sewage disposal systems shall be considered in the initial stages of the development review process. All new lots to be served with individual septic systems shall be at least 2.29 acres and shall demonstrate the ability to meet local standards prior to preliminary subdivision approval. 

ER-14-s4 Applicants for construction activities, industrial uses and mining activities which meet thresholds under State law shall demonstrate that they have obtained a Colorado Stormwater Permit. Colorado Stormwater permits require applicants to identify and carry out appropriate best management practices to minimize polluted runoff from their sites. 

ER-15 All new development shall be required to adequately provide for stormwater management in a manner which reflects current engineering practice and which takes into account up-to-date hydrologic standards. 

ER-15-s1 The Stormwater Management Manual shall form the basis of review of new development. It will be updated periodically to reflect the most accurate scientific data possible for defining the relationship between the magnitude and frequency of rainfall events. Requirements for construction of stormwater facilities will be those that provide a cost-effective level of service based on up-to-date scientific data on flood frequencies. 

ER-16 Larimer County will explore options to protect and provide adequate water resources for present and future uses in the County, in partnership with other affected interests.  

ER-16-s1 Larimer County will not support future transfers of existing water resources out of the County without consideration of the impacts on present and future land uses including agriculture. 

ER-16-s2 Water conservation will be an important component of the strategy to maintain adequate water resources.  

NOISE, GLARE AND ODORS 

ER-17 Larimer County shall develop noise and glare performance standards and enforce State odor condition standards to protect the health, safety and welfare of County residents.  

ER-17-s1 Noise standards from the County Noise Ordinance shall be used in the development review process to ensure that new development does not create unacceptable noise conditions beyond its property boundaries. The Land Use Code shall reference maximum permissible noise levels consistent with the existing County Noise Ordinance. If the County has reason to believe that a proposed use may cause noise which would be objectionable or otherwise cause a nuisance, a noise mitigation plan may be required as part of a development application. 

ER-17-s2 Performance standards for glare shall be addressed in the development review process to limit off-site impacts associated with glare and light level disturbance. The Land Use Code shall specifically address outdoor lighting standards and provide a review process for outdoor lighting activities and uses such as lighted playing fields and outdoor arenas. 

ER-17-S3 State standards for odor conditions shall be referenced to limit odors permissible beyond the property boundaries of the use, process or activity that causes odors. Residential and business uses, schools and churches shall be protected from odor conditions of new development. Certain agricultural operations are exempt from these standards. If the County has reason to believe that a proposed use may cause odors which would be objectionable or otherwise cause a nuisance, an odor mitigation plan may be required as part of a development application. 

SPECIAL PLACES 

ER-18 The development review process shall assist in the protection of the special places of Larimer County. 

ER-18-s1 Sites and structures listed on State and National Registers of Historic Places and in the Larimer County Parks Comprehensive Master Plan shall be included on the environmental checklist at the initial stages of a development project. Other landmarks of local interest shall also be included on the checklist. The development review process shall consider options for preserving and protecting these features and sites. 

ER-18-s2 Preservation of unique or distinctive natural features shall be considered in the design of the development. As with other resources, open space areas shall be used to protect and preserve the special places of the County. 

ER-18-s3 Ridgelines shall be protected from development using a variety of tools which are fair to landowners. The County shall work with landowners on techniques and strategies to address ridgeline protection in a fair manner. One tool already identified to help achieve the goal of ridgeline protection is clustering development below ridgelines. 

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