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In a convivial session on Tuesday, February 6, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) gave their unanimous approval to the Cleora North Planned Development (PD) concept. While the plan is fairly well developed already, the BoCC will be seeing this again when it reaches the final plat stage.

“A PD development is an overlay, it establishes specific uses’ — in this case setbacks that will be used in this development,” explained Chaffee Planning Manager Gary Baker. He reminded the BoCC that in August 2023 they had already approved some requested changes to the historic townsite layout, including removing some lot lines and vacating portions of right-of-ways.

This request is a Planned Development (PD) Plan proposing reduced setbacks and specific uses on 113 lots within a portion of the Cleora Townsite. The approximately 55-acre site is east of the Salida Wastewater Treatment Plant and railroad tracks.

The historic townsite was platted in lot sizes of the 1870s and [as has been pointed out in Nathrop townsite lots] these are not large enough for modern development. Cleora North was replatted in 2023 via the Cleora North Street Vacation, Lot Elimination, and Adjustment Replat.

Asked if the PD applied to various construction types and uses, Chaffee County Attorney Daniel Tom responded “There are cases where the specifics of say a B&B within a PD was approved at the same time as the PD. Or say a STR [short-term rental] use was approved at the same time, but they would still have to go through the normal licensing and permitting process.”

Chapter six of the county’s Land Use Code (LUC) sets out the requirements for a PD. There is a public benefit provision contained in the LUC; the developer has to provide public use. In this case, the Cleora North PD includes a 21-acre open space area, multiple trail access points, and affordable housing. Five percent of the units will be offered at 160 percent AMI (Area Median Income) or less.

Baker pointed out that while urban and suburban sprawl has been popular in the past few decades, “now, what was old is new again. In recent years, we’ve seen small lots, concentrated and mixed uses favored in planning. It’s lifestyle. This development is mixed-use, with paths and trails. All the right-of-ways connect to adjacent parcels. They don’t cut off like 80’s suburbs. This adds access.”

He reviewed a few building department earlier concerns that have been addressed, including new septic leach fields, and a central water system and shared well.

“This was zoned industrial, but residential from Salida is creeping down there,” said Chaffee County Development Director Miles Cottom, who explained that if they were processed as single-family homes, each one of them would need administrative reviews.

“That’s a lot of houses to have to review, so we’re changing this to ‘permitted based on the zoning’,” explained Cottom. “Some of these lots are only 50 ft. wide, and if we require 15 feet on either side, you’d have 20 feet to build on. Salida hasn’t chosen to annex this property, or offered a connection to the water treatment plant, due to the railroad property. [Post] has worked with Salida Mountain trails, I believe that this is the end of the Chicken Dinner trail.”

Commissioner Greg Felt asked what the next steps in this approval process would be, given that the BoCC hasn’t done a PD in a while.

“The next step is a final plan – you’ll hear that as well,” responded Planner Baker.

“The PD Plan changes the zoning, and the setbacks, and the subdivision comes in and divides the land,” added Cottom. “This one’s different because the rights were in existence from the original townsite. The underlying land is there. The PD is designed to make the uses, the setbacks and the density fit the lots.”

The Chaffee Land Use Code requires a two-step process so there will be another final review, although the agency review requests have already been sent out. The Chaffee Planning Commission will do a second public hearing on February 20 (they have already recommended approval), and a second public hearing will be set for the BoCC meeting of March 5.

During developer comments, Jeff Post said he’d be happy to answer questions, but hadn’t prepared a formal presentation. He explained “We’re in the process of designing the central water system with CDPHE [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] … we’re planning zero setbacks along the main street to create one and two-bedroom duplexes. We’re working on a different technology that would allow for energy efficiency. Our goal is to have solar rooftop, and low maintenance materials.”

Asked about the geological hazard from storm runoff, he responded that the drainage area {and the 21-acre open space area] will handle that. Post responded to another question regarding access for a neighboring property owner outside the PD, explaining “A public right-of-way will provide a 35 ft. easement for access and utilities, should she decide to pull power in  — she’s off the grid. The Colorado PUC [Public Utilities Commission]  owns that railroad crossing.”

Asked about the new well, Post said the PD is being designed to work off one well, and they have already done 90 different quality tests; one a 96-hour test of pumping continuously. “That gets engineered into the amount of storage required. Sangre de Cristo is going to put in power. It’s not an elevated system, it will be on central water tract northwest of CR 103 where it crosses into the subdivision. The tank will be on that site; both discharge, and water treatment systems.”

During public comment only one person spoke, asking about access in case of fire, and with the Salida sewage treatment plant that will likely elicit more complaints.

Post responded that “There is public access through all these streets – probably this is an improved access…  I am aware the wind can blow certain directions some days, that smell comes up maybe 10 percent of the time.” He added that the area is seeing “a lot of trespassers going up into Casey Everett’s property. Some nasty campers and we hope that this gets cleaned up.”

He referenced what it has been like to overlay modern development on a historic 1870s town site. “Before, the Main Street was 100 ft wide and we vacated that down to 60 ft.” Towns with their roots in the 1860s and 1870s often set large main streets so that teamsters could turn a team of eight horses around in the street, not something we need to worry about any longer.

Commissioner Keith Baker made the motion to approve the Cleora North PD concept plan based on findings and conditions conveyed by the Planning Commission. Felt seconded and it passed unanimously.

“Is 145 years for a development a record?” chuckled Commissioner P.T. Wood