The land use code change is a step toward meeting county climate goals
ASPEN, COLO. (Nov. 16, 2023) - During their regular meeting on November 15, the Pitkin County Commissioners (BOCC) took another step in utilizing county land use and building codes to meet climate goals. The Board approved six ordinances that amend the county’s land use code and zoning regulations including a reduction of the final maximum floor area. The reduction, which immediately took effect upon adoption, applies to development in unincorporated Pitkin County and limits the final maximum floor area to 9,250 square feet. Currently the maximum floor area allowed is 15,000 square feet.
“We recognize that we have a pretty serious environmental emergency and we have science showing us that anything above 8,500 square feet raises greenhouse gas emissions and increases environmental havoc. I think we need to keep that in mind when we think about why we are doing this – it’s really about responding to our climate action plan,” said Francie Jacober, chair of the Board of Pitkin County Commissioners.
The county has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 90 percent by 2050. Emissions from residential buildings are the largest contributor to GHG emissions in unincorporated Pitkin County, accounting for 47% of 2019 emissions.
The recommendation to amend the county’s final maximum floor area emerged from a 10-month process where appointed citizens of a 26-member Community Growth Advisory Committee came up with a set of recommendations to address the effect of the built environment on climate change. The committee’s formation followed a BOCC resolution in 2019 that declared a climate emergency in Pitkin County. After 21 meetings, the committee presented their recommendations in a 70-page report to the BOCC. The committee recommended reducing floor area to 8,750 square feet in unincorporated Pitkin County and 9,250 square feet in the urban growth boundary. The action by the BOCC yesterday was a first step towards the committee’s recommendations. The BOCC pursued a 9,250 floor area maximum as an interim step while the county moves forward with the full suite of the Committee’s recommendations, anticipated to take up to 18 months.
“This was a hard-fought compromise to get to the committee’s recommendations. This is the first step as we move forward with the full suite [of the committee’s recommendations],” said Jon Peacock, Pitkin County Manager.
The 9,250 square foot final maximum floor area applies to all lands within unincorporated Pitkin County, except in areas with a more restrictive final maximum floor area, such as in the rural and remote zone district and in various overlay zone districts. New overlay zone districts with more restrictive final maximum floor areas were adopted in the master plan areas of Brush Creek, Emma, and the valleys of Capital Creek and Lower Snowmass Creek, and in the unincorporated area of the Basalt Urban Growth Boundary. These join the existing Maroon Creek and Fryingpan overlay zone districts.
To meet the climate challenge ahead, the BOCC also directed staff to bring forward energy code amendments that would address the external energy use and implement electric-ready provisions. Those code amendments will be presented to the BOCC for consideration on December 6. For questions regarding the land use or energy code changes, reach out to email@example.com.
Adjusting the land use code and utilizing growth management is one of many steps the county is taking to address the effects of climate change. Other efforts, like increasing diversion at the landfill and emphasizing energy conservation on county buildings, are other tools being used to influence the transition to a clean economy and meet the 2050 climate target.
Media contact: Marci Suazo, Pitkin County Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, (970) 309-2343