The Chaffee Board of County Commissioners voiced support for two conservation easements designed to protect agricultural lands and moved forward with development plans on some others during their Tuesday, Sept. 10 regular meeting.

The Accretta Ranch property and a second ranch property near the County Fairgrounds are candidates for conservation easements.

Central Colorado Conservancy Conservation Director Lucy Waldo made a presentation for helping preserve property through conservation easements on the Accetta property, a 293-acre Bureau of Land Management in holding, near the Castles Rock formation east of Johnson Village. The other conservation easement would preserve approximately 200 acres of agricultural land, west of Salida, highly visible from county roads. The second property owner has declined to be identified at this point.

Waldo asked commissioners to earmark $60,000 from the Chaffee County Conservation Trust Fund (CTF) to help the landowners with transaction costs for donated conservation easements. It is expected to be about $73,000 for each property, Waldo stated. The landowners are donating an estimated $1.2 million in easement value.

Waldo said the Accetta ranch includes agricultural land leased for grazing by a local rancher and includes three-quarters of a mile of Trout Creek, winding through willows and riparian meadows. Bighorn sheep frequent the property, adjacent to the Castles rock pinnacles, and is part of the viewshed for people traveling into the Arkansas Valley on Highway 285.

The second parcel easement will protect approximately 200 acres of agricultural land that is is part of the scenic rural view from county fairgrounds. It includes water rights that irrigate 140 acres of meadow and pasture. Deer, elk and other wildlife frequent the south-facing property in winter, Waldo said.

Commissioners noted the CTF annual renewed fund has a balance of about $170,000 now. The discussion centered around the timetable of the projects, and whether it would be more feasible to utilize funding from the tax-supported Common Ground Fund in the county, or a combination of both funds.

Such easements take time to process, and Waldo said work could be delayed until closing by the end of 2020 or the spring of 2021.

Commissioners voted unanimously to support the proposal.

The board also held public hearings on five planned developments and recommendations on all from the Planning Commission and tabled the sixth proposal.

Commissioners approved the preliminary plan/final plat for the proposed:

Mountain Shadows Subdivision: The proposal would divide just over 11 acres into five lots located near the intersection of County Roads 140 and 250. Planning Commission requirements will include an 11,000-gallon fire cistern.

Williamson Minor Subdivision: A further site visit by commissioners was decided on in the review of the Williamson Minor Subdivision at 6275 County Road 178 East in Salida. The plan to divide 9.6 acres into two lots brought out concerns over the 30-degree slope on part of one of the parcels. The Planning Commission wanted assurances there would be a building envelope for a buildable lot. The on-site review will be later this week.

SMC Ranch Major Subdivision: The initial sketch plan for the proposed SMC Ranch Major Subdivision received approval from the BoCC. The developer has proposed to subdivide two larger lots and two smaller tracts of land owned by SMC LLC, along County Road 156 just north of Salida near the Scanga Meat business. The project would divide 117.4 acres into 58 lots and rights-of-way for streets in a grid pattern. The developer would phase in building from south to north and will require a hydrology study. Other concerns raised included one from a neighbor over the potential change of water use from the nearby new Salida ditch.

The Nola Minor Subdivision: The subdivision, located at 7505 County Road 156 West had a final plat approved for the development of four acres into two lots of two acres each on a shared driveway.

Crosswinds Development Major Subdivision: The BoCC approved a sketch plan, with conditions, for the Crosswinds Development Major Subdivision at 102 Tailwinds Drive, next to the Buena Vista Airport. It would divide nearly 43 acres into 16 building lots, with one to six lots used for residential and others commercial. The Federal Aviation Administration previously has not been in favor of residential building near airport property and will be an agency that will weigh in on the proposed project.
Cool Clear Water Major Impact Subdivision: The proposed Cool Clear Water Major Impact Subdivision, with six, two-unit townhouses and a single-family residence proposed on 26.12 acres along the Arkansas River was tabled until Oct. 10 for the developer to answer public concerns.

The board also heard a presentation by the Extraordinary Teen Council (ETC) and Communities That Care (CTC) asking the county to opt-out of the recently-passed Marijuana Hospitality Establishment bill that became law this summer. The law gives local governments the option to pass new marijuana licenses for public use of marijuana, so-called “tasting rooms,” in designated locations, including restaurants.

The ETC is comprised of local students seeks to help teens thrive by educating peers on the risks of substance abuse and reducing the stigma around mental health issues.

Several students spoke about the risks of people using marijuana in public, then driving home impaired, making it more difficult for police to enforce laws regarding underage use and that public use could increase peer pressure to use the drug.

One student said she felt that even if public marijuana use were limited to “isolated” locations, it could have a negative impact on the environment of a location.

“I don’t want my favorite coffee shops and restaurants to have a smoking section,” said one student.

The ETC is comprised of local students seeks to help teens thrive by educating peers on the risks of substance abuse and reducing the stigma around mental health issues.

Commissioner Keith Baker said he felt municipalities along the Front Range had driven the hospitality room trend. The BoCC signaled they would examine the issues and take the matter under advisement.

The accomplishments of the Southwest Conservation Corps (SWCC) locally were also highlighted in another presentation for board members.

Anna Hendricks, Regional and Program Director for SWCC, gave a PowerPoint presentation showing the multiple agencies and varied projects the Corps volunteers had participated in this year, including trail work and re-vegetation projects.

The work included two weeks of projects in the county, funded by $7,500 per week in local grants, as well as work for Great Outdoors Colorado (one week, $7,600); and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (one week, $7,500).

Commissioners also approved a request from the Montessori Charter School for the use of the County Fairgrounds North building two days a week from mid-October through December as an indoor recreation space for students, at a reduced rent of $500.