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Grand County may charge higher fees for burning, planning

Tonya Bina
tbina@grandcountynews.com
Grand County, Colorado

Grand County, Colorado, departments could be adopting new or adjusted fees at a fee hearing on Nov. 10.

Planning and Natural Resource Department heads introduced ideas to commissioners during workshops Tuesday on ways the departments could better cover costs.

Fees for burn program



Grand County Natural Resource Division Foreman Jennifer Murray asked the county commissioners to consider new burn permit fees due to the high volume of permitting the department experiences.

From the 2006-07 season to last winter, Murray said, the number of burn permits increased 1,500 percent.



This jump is symptomatic of the pine beetle problem, creating demands on department staff with call volume, paperwork and complaints.

“Current demand is accounting for 90 percent of Division staff for seven months of the year, costing approximately $62,000-$65,000 in administrative work,” Murray reported to commissioners.

The upcoming burn season will further tax the department with stricter state requirements.

Recently the county renewed its state-granted authority to issue burn permits and maintain local control.

The renewal, the first since 2001, reflects greater oversight by the state Air Pollution Control Division.

Grand County’s Natural Resource department must now produce weekly statistics to the state on the number of piles burned, cubic yardage of piles and daily condition of air quality.

For larger burn projects in sensitive areas and pile burns operated by people who have had problems in the past, the division will be conducting inspections, Murray said.

To offset administrative costs, Murray proposes a minimum permit fee of about $35 to $50 for private property owners with smaller slash piles. For those doing commercial burning, the department is looking into re-implementing a commercial burn permit fee of about $100-$500.

Details of what a fee schedule would look like are still in the works, but commissioners were not opposed to the idea Tuesday.

Such fees may encourage people to not burn large-diameter material that can prolong burns, affecting air quality, Murray said. Permit holders should find other uses for large-diameter debris, such as haul it to pellet plants, she said.

But County Road 4 residents Spike and Pat Potts, who burn slash as a commercial enterprise, said such fees would be “one more expense,” and could discourage people from ridding the county of forest fuels.

“The county has a big problem,” Pat said. “All this slash, all this wood, and somehow we have to get rid of it.”

In the Fraser Valley especially, Murray said, burn piles during valley shifts to inversions can mean poor air quality. The goal of her department is to strike a balance ” finding solutions to the woody biomass problem with the goal of preserving air quality.

Allowing piles to cure for more than one season rather than burn them while they’re still “green” is one way burn piles can be consumed faster and with less impact on air quality, she said.

Planning Fees

County Planner Kris Manguso also made a presentation to commissioners, comparing the county’s planning fee schedule to what neighboring counties charge.

One of the greatest differences, Manguso pointed out, was in a Subdivision Improvement Agreement for which other counties, such as Summit, Routt and Pitkin, charge more than $1,000.

Grand County charges zero.

“That’s charitable,” said Commissioner Gary Bumgarner.

The planning department proposes a new $800 fee for SIAs.

Several subdivisions wading in default this year were taken into consideration when referencing the amount of county administrative time such projects can take.

Overall, Grand County’s development fees are on the low end compared to other mountain counties.

The planning department proposes several significant increases for subdivision planning, subdivision exemption, zoning, 1041, and right of way/easement vacation fees.

Examples of increases are upping subdivision sketch plans from $575 to $1,000, final plat fees from $900 to $2,000 and zoning changes from $700 to $1,000.

County decisions on department fee proposals may take place during a hearing on Nov. 10.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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