In his presentation to the San Miguel Board of County Commissioners Wednesday, county building official Matt Gonzalez highlighted the reasons he’s undertaking an update of the county’s building codes. (Screenshot by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

One of San Miguel County’s newest employees, Building Official Matt Gonzalez, is ready to roll up his sleeves and embark on a project begging for attention — a major update of the county’s building codes. At Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioner (BOCC) meeting, commissioners Lance Waring, Kris Holstrom and Hilary Cooper virtually “met” Gonzalez for the first time and were briefed on the steps he will be taking to undertake the project.

Gonzalez started by introducing himself to his new colleagues.

“I was raised down in the southwestern part of state in Bayfield down by Durango, so, I'm a country bumpkin at heart,” he said. “I got three kids and a wife and we're just grateful to be here. I'm grateful that I grew up in this state and had a chance to work in this state, you know, especially in this day and age.”

Gonzalez lives in Mountain Village with his family and was most recently the building inspector there. Introductions completed, he got to brass tacks.

First and foremost, the county is currently operating under 2009 codes. Much has changed since then in the building trades and modernization, he said, is crucial.

“We're currently on the 2009 International Building Code, residential code, energy code, and the mechanical code,” he said. “So, where we're at right now is working with individuals to compare our current code 2009 and Green Building Standard energy codes with some newer versions of those, like the 2018, and in consulting with others, that would be a great upgrade. It's a more modern code and incorporates more modern building science. Obviously in the last 10 to 15 years, green building practices have highly evolved so these are all things we need to address with new codes.”

Gonzalez is already in the process of assembling a community task force, whose makeup he envisions as a diverse range of experts in the building trades that will work on the adoption of new codes over a six-month timeframe.

“Please let anyone you know that is qualified as a design professional, professional builder, anyone in the community that has demonstrated competency in the building trades is welcome to apply for a spot on the board,” Gonzalez explained. “The intent of the taskforce is going to be to get input from people that live here. People who are familiar with our code as it exists, what works, what doesn't work. We're going to take many months to meet with these folks and get a feel for what needs to change.” 

The goal will be a new set of codes that fit the community as a whole. Gonzalez is targeting project completion by fall. He said his department will also be working on updating the county’s fee schedule.

In other commissioner business, the board approved an amendment to a conditional special use permit for marijuana cultivator and retailer, Alpine Wellness to add a 20,000-square-foot outdoor cultivation area, two temporary 3,000-square-foot “hoop houses,” and a 3,000-square-foot marijuana processing building. This would increase growing capacity to 800 plants. The special use permit’s conditions include a one-year review, the installation of privacy screening, that licensing related to state marijuana cultivation requirements be current, and that the special use permit not run with the land, among other conditions. The County Planning Commission had sent the matter to the BOCC with a recommendation to approve the special use permit.

The commissioners also considered on annual review a special use permit issued to Spitfire Realty LLC for its private airstrip on Hastings Mesa. First issued in 2019, the special use permit requires a flight log for the year be submitted. Since March 2020 until now, the flight log reported zero takeoffs or landings, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to county senior planner John Huebner. Though the property’s Hasting Mesa neighbors confirmed the airstrip’s usage was nil over the past year, many continued their objections to a special use permit being issued at all.

“Due to pandemic issues there was no flight activity at the airstrip this year,” Huebner said. “And we sent this out for comment to the neighbors and we received a bunch of comments but most of those reflected their disappointment with the special use permit being issued for the airstrips but not so much with the actual operations.”

Reported helicopter use in February was noted but Spitfire ranch managers said it was destined for a neighboring parcel.

The commissioners unanimously approved the special use permit for another year. This is the third year of required annual review by county officials.

And, the commissioners unanimously approved to appoint Sefra Maples to a seat on the county Open Space Commission.

The commissioners, who have been meeting weekly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, are taking next week off.