By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver
[DOUGLAS COUNTY, COLO.] Douglas County Commissioners heard concerns about increased traffic and pitting neighbors against neighbors for enforcement during Wednesday night's live town hall as they consider changes to home occupation regulations.
Proposed zoning regulation changes would apply to residents in unincorporated areas of the county living on 4.5 acres or more zoned for agriculture or rural development.
Vehicle trips, weight limit among proposed changes
Michael Cairy, county zoning compliance manager, said regulations for using a home for a business require a permit, limit using 50% of its first floor and allow using up to 5,000 square feet of a detached structure.
Retail businesses are not allowed, he added. The regulations also allow up to two non-resident employees to be present when working.
Planning Manager Dan Dertz said the proposed changes would increase the square footage and set a daily limit of eight trips to and from a business operating in a home. There are no trip limits or weight limits on vehicles in these areas. The changes propose a 26,000 lb. limit, 40,000 lbs. if a trailer is included.
Outdoor equipment storage would remain prohibited, Cairy added.
The county would require complaints to enforce rule infractions since it has only three zoning enforcement officials.
Upon a complaint, an official will visit the property, inform the landowner about the zoning regulations and issue a courtesy notice to correct any violations. If the issue continues, the county could consider legal action, Cairy said.
He estimated the county issued less than 100 home occupation in the last five years. Those permits do not allow a resident to override stricter homeowner association rules or covenants.
Rural areas don't want more traffic
Scott Anderson of Surrey Ridge noted most residents of the equestrian-oriented community own and ride horses and have other animals, which would be affected by increased traffic to and from home-based businesses in the area.
"You're going to open the door to what someone can do with eight trips a day and employees going back and forth," he said. "And you're asking neighbors to pit neighbor against neighbor to enforce these changes."
Rural resident Leslie Parker said there should be a limit to "what's going down my dirt road."
Others in the crowd voiced support for the changes, noting that home-based businesses pay taxes.
Commissioners split on changes
Commissioner George Teal told the crowd he favored the changes at the end of the evening.
"We've done extensive work to limit the scope and define these changes," he said. "When residents come forward and feel their livelihood is threatened by existing regulations and a ticking time bomb is going to land on top of them, I take that very seriously."
Commissioner Lora Thomas said she opposed the changes.
"I don't want to change what was in place when many people bought their homes with existing zoning and had an expectation of what would be there," she added.
Commissioner Abe Laydon did not attend the meeting.