6.1 Resource Inventory and Environmental Review
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:
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.
Resources for Environmental Checklist:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.)
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:
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..
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.6.2 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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.