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During their Tuesday, Dec. 7 regular meeting, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) introduced and conducted a first reading on an ordinance that will impose a temporary moratorium on the submission, acceptance, or processing of applications and the licensing, permitting, or operation of any new retail marijuana establishment as defined by the Colorado Constitution. The moratorium does not include any existing marijuana establishments and will extend until December 31, 2023.

The move appears not to be prompted by any urgent requests.  The few retail store requests in the county have been targeted within municipal areas and the county has three, as-yet unused retail marijuana store licenses.

Asst. County Attorney Daniel Tom confirmed the county has not received any serious inquiries about retail marijuana store licensing within the county. “Most are just discussions, information-seekers, but nothing where they seem serious. Application for the three unused licenses would  have to come before the board.”

Approval of Elk Run Conservation Subdivision Sketch Plan

The BoCC held a lengthy public hearing regarding the Elk Run Conservation Subdivision Sketch Plan, ultimately choosing to approve the 204.5-acre development (part of four contiguous parcels that total 281.1 acres) proposed to be divided into 30 lots of four to five acres each, with two large lots of 22 and 47.5 acres.

The Elk Run Conservation Sketch Plan calls for development of 204.5 acres with significant open space buffers, next to an area planned as a conservation easement for migrating elk and pronghorn.

The remaining 76.6 acres will be dedicated to open space and possible out lots in the form of perimeter buffers, interior wildlife and pedestrian corridors, and a wildlife refuge.

Public hearing at the early sketch plan phase focuses on trying to determine whether there is evidence that the application could comply with the county land-use code (LUC). It is the first of three review steps.

Applicant D & G Sparks Family Limited Partnership II represented by Bruce Kramer of First Son Development, also owns two adjacent properties of 78.9 and 35.5 acres, which are in existing conservation easements and which include the dedication of CR 340 and CR 361. The application creates a wildlife refuge adjacent to CR 340 and Chaffee County Development staff say that this designation satisfies the county’s open space guidelines.

During public comment, several neighbors noted that the prior property owner had assured them that there would be conservation easements and expressed concerns that the wildlife corridor wasn’t wide enough (one referenced a 400-acre corridor for elk in Game Trail that is closed to traffic Nov. 1 to March 30). Others were concerned the development would bring too much traffic and human contact, for the migration corridor (elk and pronghorn) to be effective.

Another brought up the issue of potential future subdivision of what is now designated open space saying, “The  open space could be developed at any time, and there is nothing there to prevent these lots from being subdivided.”

There is nothing in the Chaffee LUC that requires no further subdivision of a lot that can legally be subdivided, but this restriction could be voluntarily added as a plat note.

“We don’t want [re] subdivision,” said Kramer. “We’d put this restriction on this; we’d allow an ADU (auxiliary dwelling unit) for short-term rental, but not a second residence. We are committed to maintaining that open space.”

Asked if there were conservation easements on the property, which the previous owner had indicated he wanted to have set up, the Development staff responded that they searched and found nothing.

Some members of the BoCC requested clarification of whether this long-in-development-subdivision was a conservation subdivision, or if it was actually a cluster development, as Centerville Ranch was identified. “What is the difference,” they asked, “between a conservation easement and a conservation subdivision?

“Clusters are less than two acres and these are much larger,” said Planning Manager Jon Roorda. “We’ve worked with them for months and we believe they have been considerate of this property. Clusters allow for smaller lots. This fits the requirements for a major subdivision better than it does a cluster development.”

“The original discussion was [a fourth parcel] as part of the open space requirements, but it wasn’t appropriate,” said  Director of Development Dan Swallow. “Technically it meets a conservation subdivision without that parcel, ….it passes as a major subdivision, and the conservation subdivision is more restrictive, but it wasn’t using any of the benefits of it. The preservation of this amount of open space was a key factor in the Planning Commission approval.”

“A conservation easement is a totally separate thing from a conservation subdivision,” added Tom. ” There are no tax benefits to the conservation subdivision.”

The discussion turned to water availability. The area is bounded on the west by Trails West (via CR 340), and further to the north by Game Trail. The water studies that will be required to apply to these parcels are twofold:  they will apply to water availability for this set of parcels, but will also be required to address the rights of other nearby wells.

Commissioner Keith Baker brought up the monitoring wells for the agricultural irrigation pivots along CR361, asking that the direction of water flow off the land be considered as a neighboring right.

Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Kramer, who said he has been building custom homes in the valley since 1977, said he has been involved on this property for a long time and understands this marketplace and the land. He admitted that when it comes to our critical need for workforce housing “this project isn’t intended to solve that problem.”

One county resident brought up the question of whether or not, with this amount of open space and conservation easement, a 1041 permit should be required. Tom responded saying: “We’d wait until we heard from CPW (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) – of impact or no impact. If there is potential for impact, they could require a 1041 and refer it as such.”

“There seems like there is a large scale concern, that CPW doesn’t receive this for comment until much later and not at this point,” said Baker, who pointed out this would be good to know before hours and hours of resources go into the proposal. “It seems to me that with overriding concerns it would be good to have them comment earlier in the process. Spares the applicant.”

Commissioner Rusty Granzella made the motion to approve the sketch plan, Baker seconded and it passed unanimously.

The BoCC moved more quickly than normal through the rest of their regular agenda items. Following the lead of the county’s municipalities, they have evolved to a format placing several non-controversial items into a consent agenda. Each consent agenda is reviewed at the start of the meeting, allowing any commissioner to indicate he wishes a topic to be pulled out of the consent list to be discussed in open session.