Since 2007, the Town of Telluride has restricted the portion of non-retail uses permitted in ground floor spaces on Colorado Ave. to no more than 20 percent of storefront frontage. This week the town council reviewed how well it’s working.
The bottom line: non-retail currently occupies only about 14 percent of main street frontages, representing a drop from 20 percent since the ordinance was enacted but an increase from 11 percent in 2010.
A council majority agreed that if the current mix on main street is desirable, now is the time to consider amending the restrictions, reducing the allowable percentage of non-retail, in order to keep the percentage of non-retail down. Any such amendment will require a process of public hearings, starting with consideration by the Telluride Planning and Zoning Commission, Town Attorney Kevin Geiger told council, because it would constitute an amendment to the town’s land use code.
Members of council agreed that the objectives behind the so-called horizontal zoning ordinance, to retain commercial vitality and produce robust sales tax revenues, remain important to the town’s economic health. But council also agreed that a large reason for the reduction in non-retail space since 2007 has been a dramatic decline in demand for non-retail space on Main Street, notably from real estate offices.
While council was divided between those who suggested leaving the ordinance alone and those who favored reducing the allowable percentage of non-retail storefront below 20 percent, a four-to-three majority favored “being proactive,” in the words of Councilmember Thom Carnevale.
With that, council sent the matter to P&Z for consideration.
… and Trees
The town’s tree ordinance, whose purpose is to create a sustainable urban forest, will get some review next year to make it more flexible to administer. Possible amendments include revisions in the definition of “tree maintenance” to allow for easier thinning and replacement of old trees and of the definition of a “hazard tree,” reducing mitigation requirements for the removal of one. In addition, the provision of the ordinance allowing a property owner to designate a qualified tree as a “heritage tree,” an option that has never been exercised, may be removed.
Telluride resident Andy Knorr told council on Tuesday that under the existing ordinance she was not permitted to remove a cottonwood that she herself planted 18 years ago, in the wrong place. Resident Sam Siegel made a similar point, that trees on private property may grow too large and “become a ward of the town,” preventing their removal.
Sometimes a landowner has to recognize that a landscaping plan was a bad plan, he said, citing, for example, trees planted too close to a house.
In amending the ordinance, should the legal protection of lilacs be retained? Yes, councilmembers Thom Carnevale, Chris Myers and Bob Saunders argued strongly, even though they are bushes and not trees. Arborist Tyler Schultz told council that lilacs are short lived but have root systems likely to regenerate new shrubs when they are cut back. Others observed that new lilacs are frequently planted in town, because they do well in Telluride.
Given the range of issues, council agreed to consider amendments to the tree ordinance in the near term and also to begin a longer process of amending the town’s land use code to add more provisions with regard to landscaping.