Following a marathon four hour special meeting on Monday evening, in a discussion that moved in circles, the Chaffee County Planning Commission moved to prepare a notice of decision regarding Alison Brown’s Limited Impact Review application for an outfitting facility for her property located at 11600 Antelope Road. The decision, passed on a seven to one vote, declared that there were ‘no impacts’ discernible between Brown’s equestrian use-by-right activities on the property and activities associated with the same horses used for foxhunting activities.
Planning Commission members voting for the ‘no impact’ decision included Chair Mike Allen, and Commissioners Karin Adams, Rob Treat, Tracy Vandaveer, Bruce Cogan, Bill Baker, and Marjo Curgus
Planning commission Vice-Chair, Dan McCabe was the lone dissenter, while Planning Commissioner Joe Stone had excused himself from the topic.
McCabe’s issue focused on the designation that Brown’s use was commercial and therefore must have impacts. “ If I don’t have customers why do I need a commercial outfitting facility. And if the activity is taking place off site – why do we need an outfitting facility application?” he asked. “By applying she’s saying she’s a commercial operation.”
Brown responded that her reason for doing the application was due to a court-ordered injunction in a district court case. That injunction required her to apply as an outfitting facility to determine if there were any impacts on the property or surroundings stemming from her fox hunting equestrian activities.
“If then we determine that the impacts of those activities are no different than just having a boarding facility, that injunction would be removed,” said Chair Mike Allen. “ And she would be permitted to have those animals there for that activity.”
“I’m applying because I was told to,” said Brown. “I am not a commercial operator. I can’t tell people who board horses with me what they can do with their horses after they take them off the property … What I can tell you is that if you require me to get a commercial well because of my activities with horses, then you could end up requiring every rancher in Chaffee County to do the same thing … I can tell you the number of horse trailers are the same, no matter if the horses are being transported for a trail ride or to fox hunt.”
Planning Commission majority could find no difference in impacts between use of horses on the property for foxhunting activities, and those from use for boarding horses, training horses, or pleasure trail riding. It determined that the activities do not take place on site, and the same number of horse trailers are used for transporting horses no matter the activity. “We are trying to determine whether there is an additional scale of impact over and above the normal use and if there is none, than we don’t need to worry about the conditions,” said Marjo Curgus. “Her response is there are an equal number of trips – a consistent amount of activity from these stables regardless of the activity they are going to do.”
The staff report had stipulated findings, including that no people come to the site for foxhunting activities and questioned Brown’s road access easement. Based on that it had recommended several conditions for approval, including that “no customers, club members, public or visitors associated with foxhunting be allowed on the site”. That condition was amended to simply say that no foxhunting activities would be conducted on the property.
Several members of the public had spoken up, including Kris Ahlberg, the veterinarian who cares for Brown’s horses. “I take care of the horses and I also fox hunt – am I not allowed to go on her property to take care of her horses? How can the county say who is allowed to go on anybody’s property … if we have an Xmas party and we’re not allowed to go to Alison’s that is so wrong in so many ways. Fox hunting is legal in Colorado. How can we be told that our animals are not allowed to be used for fox hunting? Can you tell elk hunters not to take their rifles off their property because somebody doesn’t like it?”
It was also recommended that Brown be required to get a commercial access permit, a water augmentation certificate, a commercial well, and do an on-site wastewater treatment plant system analysis, as well as establish hours of operation.
Some of the conditions were largely overturned by the Planning Commission: which rejected that they could determine the well and water augmentation requirements. Based on Colorado Division of Water Resources policy 2011-3, provided by District 2 water engineer Brian Sutton, they instead directed that the water district be the determiner of commercial water and well needs, if any.
As part of the outfitting permit, the Planning Commission also approves the site plan which currently includes five dog kennels (although the dogs are housed elsewhere right now). It determined to approve the site plan with kennels, but with the condition that the amount of dogs could not be over the number allowed in the county’s (New) land use code unless a kennel permit is approved.
Antelope Road is on a private access road and there is no provision for road maintenance. After extensive discussion about the road and the extra steps that Brown took prior to purchasing the property to address easement rights and pass-through cattle needs for prior owners, Planning Commission determined that there was nothing happening that could be mitigated. The county cannot force the neighboring property owners along the easement to create a road maintenance agreement with by-laws and it would be unreasonable to require that as a condition of Brown’s use of her own property. Planning commission did say that as a condition of granting her permit, Brown could not begin operation until prevailing in a district court case that challenges the easement changes made to her property deed restrictions before she purchased her property. It left in the condition regarding commercial access permit. Even though it is a private road, it ultimately connects with a county road. “If you deem it to be a commercial activity – we’ll require a commercial access permit – code requires it on private roads – its an easement, although not a public road,” said McCabe.
The Planning Commission reviewed the general season for outfitting operation and established it as Sept. 1 through the end of March. County Attorney Jenny Davis will frame Planning Commission revised findings and conditions into a ‘no impact’ decision document.