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Gazette Premium Content El Paso County looks to ease regulations to make rebuilding in fire zone easier, quicker

By Garrison Wells Published: June 25, 2013

Rules governing land use in the Black Forest fire area may be suspended or temporarily modified as El Paso County Commissioners weigh steps on how best to help residents with recovery.

County officials have been inundated with questions from residents who lost homes to the wildfire, which destroyed 14,280 acres and 500 structures in the county's unincorporated area.

Residents looking at rebuilding are reeling.

Among questions tossed at county staff: Can I bury my burned-down home? Can I live in a recreational vehicle while I rebuild? Can I use a semi-truck trailer for storage on my property?

"Some zoning regulations may need relaxation, suspension or reconsideration," said Mark Gebhart, deputy director of the county's development services department.

Gebhart was among county staff addressing the issues during a work session Tuesday.

For instance, one regulation requires that a principal structure be built before accessory buildings such as sheds, storage or other outbuildings.

In Black Forest, however, residents may want to build their outbuilding first because the foundation for that structure remains, while the foundation for the principal structure has been damaged, said County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.

County staff is also looking at the possibility of waiving some fees, such as the $247 fee to live in a temporary mobile home while a resident rebuilds.

Commissioner Sallie Clark said fee waivers might be more relevant for Black Forest residents who do not have insurance.

"Once we get that assessment done as to how many have insurance and how many don't, we will have a better idea what we are talking about," she said. "I want to be cautious in case we're looking at reducing fees when we don't necessarily need to on those that are covered by insurance, because that puts an additional burden on us. I can see where there's a hardship with somebody that doesn't have insurance."

Clark also cautioned that some residents might refuse to clean up their properties.

"That is a problem from a health perspective as well as the perspective of the adjacent neighbors," she said.

Dennis Hisey, chairman of the board, stressed that a decision on fees and zoning regulations needs to be done quickly, so that rebuilding isn't delayed.

County staff was directed to draft options for the commissioners to consider by July 2.

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