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The Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) began their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 4 by announcing that their verbal conditional approval of the multi-day special event permit for the 2022 Renewal Concert at The Meadows would need to be redone.

“Due to procedural problems for the multi-day permit for the music festival we will rehear this on May 9,” announced BoCC Chair Keith Baker.

The visual for the Renewal festival. Courtesy of Bonfire Entertainment.

The timing is tight. The concert promoter, Bonfire Entertainment CEO Scotty Stoughton, had noted in the March 21 public hearing that the group hoped to finalize approval by mid-May so that they could keep to their timeline of beginning ticket sales in May, 2023.

While no explanation was provided by the BoCC of exactly what “procedural problems” had occurred, it may well have been the failure of the recording equipment to record the public hearing.

They did clarify that the written correspondence received as part of public comment would carry over. but because the verbal portion of the public hearing was not carried over. “So we’ll have to redo the public comment and we will be re-hearing this on May 9,” Baker concluded.

Multimodal Transportation Master Plan

A small agenda update item regarding the Chaffee Transportation Advisory Board’s (TAB) work developing the county’s Multimodal Transportation Master Plan (on the BoCC schedule (which did not receive a public hearing) received special attention during general public comment.

Construction of the extension to the Rise-N-Shine Trail. Courtesy Salida Mountain Trails.

“The TAB has been working on a multimodal plan outline for about five years now,” said TAB President Kate Garwood. “It isn’t a public issue, we are really counting on you to move this forward, it is part of the Comprehensive  Plan implementation issues.”

The agenda item she referenced is a long-planned update of how the county addresses transportation improvements. The county’s agenda item referenced the county’s scoping for solicitation of a resource for the creation of its Multimodal Transportation Master Plan.

“Our goal is to tee this up the board for the future as the tool to plan roads, telecommunications, and trails– basically all the things involved in moving people and goods,” added Garwood. “When you look at it, what you will be seeing is a business plan.”

Field sprinklers on CR 270, like most rancher’s sprinklers in the county, often water nearby roads when the wind shifts. Photo by Jan Wondra

Deputy Administrator Beth Helmke noted that the county will be looking for grant funding, adding that “the benefit of the intended plan is having an overlay for the land use proposals. So that as land use decisions are made that the overall infrastructure is pointed out and considered.”.

“I appreciate that last part about looking for long-range funding,” commented Commissioner P.T.Wood.

“I think it also needs to be a prioritized plan so that this is clear to future boards about the next thing we want to accomplish,” said Commissioner Greg Felt.

“This has to be clear for the next board,” agreed Wood.

Baker added an element of humor adding that “We all know there are roads to nowhere.”

The three commissioners unanimously agreed that the county has to move forward on scoping documents.

The BoCC Weighs in on Cisterns versus wells

The BoCC convened as the Chaffee Board of Health to hold a public hearing to consider a variance request to allow a water cistern for the provision of potable water supply for a proposed residence at 16035 Jay Bird Lane, in Lost Creek Ranch near Buena Vista.

Staff Engineer Gary Griener said he’d gotten mixed reports about nearby neighbors whose wells had enough water, others whose wells were not adequate, and another using a cistern. but he pointed out that the county land-use code didn’t just discourage the designation of a cistern, it says that for new construction cisterns cannot replace a residential well.

He added he didn’t know how he could determine if there is adequate water or not. “It’s 18 gallons of water in 48 hours.  …is the well not deep enough? If neighbors have water, it leads me to believe there is water there.Perhaps the well isn’t deep enough. I don’t know,” added Griener. “We’ve had instances on Methodist where a guy drilled two wells at 700 feet and had no water. It’s $35,000 to drill a well to prove there is no water. Is that reasonable? Our regs don’t say how much money you have to spend to prove there is no water. It’s your decision,” he concluded.

Applicant Dale Billeaudeauax said that the existing well on the property, like several of the residential wells on rural lots in the Lost Creek subdivision did not provide enough water, even for their seasonal use. He asked to add a water cistern needed to supplement, that could be filled with water from the Buena Vista water department.

The commissioners expressed concern over a variance that bends the land use code to allow a cistern at a residence that hadn’t yet been built, when the code specifcally says it isn’t allowed. They also took note that the water issues in this subdivision, whose density does not meet curren two-acre lot size standards (many of the lots in Lost Creek which is one of the older subdivisions in the county, are less than one acre).

“People say that we have lots of water and we do not,” said neighbor Sheila Roberts. She and her husband Frank Roberts sold the lot in question to the applicant.” If I run a dishwater, we don’t do anything else… we have lived this way for 42 years. We went dry in 2022, and redrilled down to 450 ft. … I have rain barrels for my garden.

“We ran out of water and had to wait for the well to rejuvenate itself,” said Frank Roberts. “We redrilled our well from 200 to 400 ft. deep and we still occasionally run dry up there.”

The applicant said he bought the lot from the Roberts in 2021 (it’s one of 10 lots and seven homes in Lost Creek)  and that he was told about the uncertainty with the well.

“I understand the applicant will be seasonal occupancy, but we build for full-time residency,” said Felt. “You need a functioning house and septic for full-time residency.”

“It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s part-time or full-time, if there isn’t water for the time you’re there,” added Baker.

“I think the density that was brought up is pretty relevant. Getting our water from the BV waterworks by the airport is easy, and supportable, we’re going to follow all the rules,” said the applicant.

Only one other time in the memory of the BoCc has the county approved a cistern for a lot – a 20-acre high-altitude situation that had already sunk two wells and couldn’t get water.

The commissioners agreed the situation now is unfortunate, but as Wood said, “It doesn’t sound like this is a surprise to anybody, we’ve had the cistern rules in place in the county for quite a while.. ‘ I think it’s a can of worms, I don’t think BV has the water up there to feed a lot of houses that aren’t in BV.”

“I recommended for our future subdivision that we require a well to be drilled,” said Griener. “Engineers are relying on reports from like the 1960s, and in my opinion, they’re inadequate to determine how much water exists today. I think we must require that one well be drilled to show proof of water. ”

“If someone wisely has a cistern, it’s a good move for many folks, that’s fine, and if somebody has a cistern and they are having trouble it could augment their well without a permit,” said Felt. “… so when do we say when they have done enough – how deep do they drill a well?”

In Colorado, water is under the county land-use code and cisterns are under the Board of Health. In Chaffee County, as in many mountain counties, issues often arise on older townsites that were platted in the 1880s as small lots. While Lost Creek was platted a long time ago, the water issues described in this meeting were not a legally documented issue.

Wood made the motion to deny the application to do a water cistern for the new residence instead of a well, and added the direction to staff to prepare a Board of Health Resolution denying it. Felt seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

Planning Director Miles Cottom pointed out that “The applicant is not prohibited from filing for another variance later on. This is not double jeopardy.”