In their May 8 meeting, Chaffee County Commissioners unanimously voted to deny a requested text amendment to the definition of “outfitting facilities” in the Chaffee County Land Use Code recommendation. The motion included a formal request for a joint work session with Chaffee County Planning Commission, to discuss the county’s outfitter definitions.
Their decision was in response to a requested text amendment, made by Dave Moore, regarding the definition of “outfitting facilities” in the Chaffee County Land Use Code.
The Planning Commission unanimously denied the request during an April 24 public hearing, and made a formal request to devote a work session to the topic, “in light of broader impacts on the community.”
“We’ve only had a land use code since the mid-1970s and the reason Chaffee County is the most successful county on the Arkansas is our successful management of activities,” said Commissioner Dave Potts. “We don’t want unintended consequences … I’ll forward this to (Planning Commission chair) Mike Allen and get a joint session scheduled.”
“Normally, planning commission work sessions don’t accept public input, but can we encourage that they do get public input (at the session),” said Commissioner Keith Baker. “I’m always in favor of adding clarity.”
“I’m inclined to agree with Keith,” said Commissioner Greg Felt. “This is more of a discussion, there are a lot of ramifications, a lot of directions to this in terms of how you define and reference commercial activity or regular activity.”
“My motivation for doing this was to stimulate a discussion about this. My goal is that this never happens again, so the county doesn’t have to hire outside attorneys and spend taxpayer money on this,” said Moore. “What motivated me to submit the request is not the current case that exists between the county and individuals on Antelope Lane … we’re talking about the impact of decisions made around that case that impact me and other individuals in the county.
“I don’t want this to happen again, or to me. I hunt, raft, fish, ride ATVs, ski – I have equipment to do that, and I have a garage to store all this and the way that code reads right now – I’m in jeopardy.”
“As I understand it, our code defines and addresses outfitting facilities, but it doesn’t talk about the outfitting activities,” said Commissioner Keith Baker. “If you have a barn and a riding ring and a group of people come over … you assemble there, load some horses to do a trail ride … then technically you could be held in violation of the county code.”
Public comments revealed the divisive nature of the topic, including resident concerns regarding their own compliance with LUC, and others who feel the entire topic has been brought about by residents who don’t want to apply for an outfitting permit.
“We need to know whether we are in compliance or whether we are in violation,” said retired attorney Kate Larkin, who keeps mules, and guides acquaintances on trails. “The definition is so vague and provides no notice to the people who fall under it or are cited for it.”
“We’re not here to manage outfitting activities, it’s here to protect land,” said attorney Randy Herrick-Stare, who is representing county residents in a court case involving their sound complaints. “The fundamental purpose is to manage environmental risk, fecal matter or sound, that impose an environmental risk. That’s what the county should be managing.”
Still others worried about the impact on the guiding done by bird-watching and wildlife conservancy groups, photography groups, and fishing clubs; organizations that collect member dues and fees for club activities, often gathering on residential property before or after activities. Another resident pointed out that flexibility should be maintained, because “We don’t know what’s coming down the road.”
“There’s more than one statutory element of outfitting, it’s (the proposed amendment) all focused on the take of wildlife or fish,” said Commissioner Greg Felt. “They’re probably about 800 outfitters in the state that fall under that … You could argue that there is maybe some variation in the definition of an outfitter, it is broader than what was cited in this request. I’m fairly sympathetic to this issue, but should we tie into a statute that is fairly narrow? There are other statutes, more than what is being requested.”
“I want us to look at this seriously, and deliberately, and not create unintended consequences,” said Baker.” Ms. Larkin’s comments are compelling. (I recommend) we give them some planning guidelines, some guard rails to tell them what it is we’re seeking in terms of clarity … on what you can do on your property.”
“This is a land use code, the county doesn’t attempt to regulate any functions,” said county attorney Jennie Davis. “The goal is to minimize impacts to surrounding properties and not regulate activities.”
“I want to point out that the county hired an attorney named Tuthill, who in court last week asked Jon Roorda, ‘If you were storing outfitting gear on your property, are you an outfitter?’ And Jon’s answer was ‘yes.’ This troubles me,” said Moore. “Because the county has only a definition of outfitting facility … that means on a case-by-case basis your staff can decide what those applications will be if we don’t get definitions in there that everybody can understand.”