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In a move that may have surprised more than a few county residents, Chaffee County Commissioners voted on Dec. 4 to unanimously deny the Salida Airpark Subdivision, a project concept envisioned for industrial-zoned land next to the Salida Airport. The project was a live-work concept; light industrial , with a residential component. The move, which had been continued from an earlier meeting, was based upon the applicant’s non-compliance with the county code process. The vote could be taken without preparing a resolution, because the proposed project never got to final plat.

The proposed project had proceeded through the preliminary plan and the sketch plan, both of which were approved in earlier meetings by the Planning Commission. The project had always been somewhat controversial; its proximity to the Salida Airport, Harriet Alexander Field garnered the airport a yellow-flag by the Federal Aviation Administration, which could jeopardize future airport funding, as well as airport safety. The FAA discourages any residential structures near airports, and this project meant that the airport landing approach would be shortened by 1,000 feet. The Airport Board, comprised of appointees by both Chaffee County and the city of Salida, had not been consulted during the project’s beginning planning stages, and had voiced concern over the project.

According to the Chaffee County Land Use Code, without a final plat, approval of the project can be terminated for non-compliance with a simple vote of the commissioners. While the first stages were approved, the county received no final plat within the allotted time parameters. The applicant could return to the county again seeking approval, but they would have to start all over again working through the staged approval process.

The commissioners reviewed and unanimously approved the contract with architect Sarah Whittington for the planning redesign of the County Annex Building in Buena Vista. The $79,500 architectural services contract has a short turn-around time; the plan must be finished by May, 2019. The county is dealing with a small space and is constrained by the town’s building limitations.

“We need to decide if we’re keeping the existing building or not,” said Chaffee County Director of Development Services Dan Swallow. “It might be too close to the street due to building setback. We would have to move it back 10 feet according to current design setbacks and we can’t go much higher than the town’s current 35 feet. Parking is the other issue to be addressed – we don’t have enough right of way. We’ll also look at it as one design plan – including the jail. The current jail has walls a foot thick – the concrete roof has some issues when they poured it – they left the rebar in the forms. So the structural engineer can design it so the supports are the walls, not the concrete roof.”

Other commissioner action:

Commissioners held a public hearing regarding maintaining the agricultural exemption for DTS Ranch LLC while dividing the Ranch into two parcels: One lot of 68.58 acres reaming in agriculture, the other a 2.71 acre lot for purpose of building a residence. There is already a existing stock well on the smaller parcel.

Convened as the Chaffee County Board of Health, commissioners approved a request by Brian Stelle, 13922 CR 175, to allow for a new domestic water well 28 feet from the property’s existing leach field.

In another decision related to water, commissioners approved a motion to move to a resolution approving a variance requested by Christopher Williams to install an underground cistern water delivery system on his property at 16868 CR 325, Buena Vista. The variance became necessary when Williams attempted to drill a well on his property and although drilling went to 800 ft. came up dry. The cistern alternative was recommended by Mountain Engineering of Poncha Springs. While a well can cost a property owner $40,000, a cistern can be installed for $5,000, plus the cost of hauling water.

Commissioners debated the size of the cistern, at first focusing on 5,000 tanks versus the applicant’s preference of a smaller tank. They debated what might happen in the future when the owner might sell the property and ultimately decided that they should leave the size of the cistern up to the property owner.

“With the fire danger the area might face, we will see more use of cisterns as time goes on. There is concern over fire suppression,” said Commissioner Greg Felt. “Do we want standards set and do we want to work on this sooner, before we have more exceptions?”