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A public information session on conservation easements and the role they play in preserving the rural landscape in Chaffee County is scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 19, at the Poncha Springs Town Hall. The session, led by the Central Colorado Conservancy, will focus on educating the public on the benefits of a Conservation Easement, and its viability as a tool for preserving much of the Centerville Ranch as working agricultural landscape.

“I know that Envision Chaffee County participants want to protect our quality of life as the county grows. For many that includes preserving our rural landscapes and working lands,” said Central Colorado Conservancy Board President Cindy Williams.

Centerville Ranch owner Jeff Ince, has proposed a conservation easement for the Centerville Ranch Major Subdivision. If it can be accomplished, it would preserve around half the nearly 1,000-acre ranch as working agricultural land. In the March 12 Chaffee County Commissioner’s public hearing at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds, Williams confirmed that serious negotiations have been in progress, and promised an update to commissioners within the week. That update is scheduled for the commissioners’ regular meeting beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 19, in Buena Vista at the offices of the Buena Vista School District, before the evening session.

The Centerville Ranch is a point of contention among Chaffee County residents, who have had a variety of objections to the project. Many of those who object to the long-term, master-planned development say they simply don’t want to see any development on the ranch. It is adjacent to U.S. 285, which is the Collegiate Peaks National Scenic Byway. That view, and progress on a conservation easement, is balanced with basic property owner rights. Rather than preserve the meadowlands of the ranch with a conservation easement, a property owner would be within his property rights to simply divide the acreage into twenty-six, 35-acre lots; the antithesis of open space or view corridor protection. Ince says that is not something he wants to do.

“We’ll discuss how this tool could protect the majority of Centerville Ranch — its views, its valuable water, its wildlife habitat and its peaceful setting,” wrote Williams in her invitation.