BY MAIRE O’NEILL
There are three joint hearings this week on the update of the Los Alamos County Chapter 16 Development Code. Los Alamos County Council and the Los Alamos County Planning & Zoning Commission will delve deeply into the 255-page proposed final document during virtual afternoon public meetings from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Oct. 12-14 to obtain what will be pretty close to the final public input on the document. The County’s Community Development Department staff and consultant Dekker Perich Sabatini will present on results of extensive work on the code over the past two years.
While there have been many opportunities for the community to get involved since the revision began, the majority of those who have been able to attend those meetings seem to have been elected officials, County staff, and representatives of economic development, chamber of commerce, and a steering committee selected by the County Community Development Department. The Zoom version of virtual County meetings that has been used since the pandemic began does not allow participants to see who is in attendance at those public engagement sessions as they are in a webinar form.
This may be a good time to quickly glance through the final draft and consider some of the changes that are proposed – at lease the ones that may affect you directly – whether it’s parking, landscaping, fencing, accessory structures, covered patios or decks or business signs. There’s a huge section on rules for just about every kind of outdoor lighting you can imagine as well as extensive information on what happens with lots, structures, signs, etc. that do not fully comply with the standards of the code as amended and will be considered “nonconforming”.
Some of the big issues that have been pointed out to the Reporter include the potential for 86-foot, 7-story buildings throughout downtown Los Alamos, which many believe will change the community drastically going forward if developed in this manner.
Others have questioned new approval procedures being proposed that would allow any multi-family, mixed use or non-residential development projects under 50,000 square feet or that contain 50 or fewer dwelling units may be reviewed and approved administratively by the Community Development Department Director and not be referred to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
The Development Code update project is designed to align it with the goals of the County’s Comprehensive Plan, creating a code that is more “efficient and transparent with standards that reflect national best practices”. An introduction to the final draft indicates that the proposed adjustment to the code aim to encourage “the right development, within the appropriate location and suitable design to enhance the public health, safety, welfare, and overall quality of living within Los Alamos County”.
The draft document and other documents pertinent to the three meetings may be viewed here:
A news release from Los Alamos County notes that Interested members of the public may join the virtual work sessions using this Zoom link. In addition, the project team will be available to discuss the draft and answer questions with any interested parties during virtual office hours will be available all three days before each meeting from 9 to 11:30 a.m. using the following links:
- Chapter 16 Development Code Update – October 12, 2022 Office Hours Zoom link.
- Chapter 16 Development Code Update – October 13, 2022 Office Hours Zoom link.
- Chapter 16 Development Code Update – October 14, 2022 Office Hours Zoom link.
After the joint work sessions, the final draft will be presented at the Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing held virtually on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. Interested community members can join using the following Zoom link.
The final Chapter 16 Development Code ordinance will be introduced to the County Council on Nov. 15, 2022, with the public hearing and presentation on Nov. 29, 2022, to be considered for adoption. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers, 1000 Central Ave., Los Alamos for in-person public, and virtual public can attend using the following Zoom link.