It has been three and a half months since the lengthy June 7 joint session of Chaffee County Commissioners and Planning Commissioners in which county staff was directed to take three elements to create a proposed adjustment to the county’s definition of an outfitting facility. The land-use code change request made by county resident Dave Moore, to better differentiate commercial versus personal activities, was supported by ranchers who depend upon seasonal hunting outfitting revenue. Moore’s concern; that friends and family who gather for outdoor adventures like kayaking, backpacking or riding horses might be reported as outfitting operations.
It appears that new definition has not yet been developed for commissioners or public comment. In September, a direct request for an update from Moore to Assistant County Attorney Chip Mortimer yielded a written response in which Mortimer asserted that there weren’t “any documents related to any follow up or subsequent action related to the ‘outfitter facility’ question.”
This is news to Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker, who confirmed in a conversation with Ark Valley Voice that he still expects an outfitter definition recommendation from staff. “It was a public meeting and people let us know their concerns. Commissioner Felt and I thought we landed on a way forward. We asked that a new definition had to contain three things: it must include ‘business’ as related to the purpose of the facility, and it had to define the frequency of outings and the numbers of participants as a way to clarify commercial operations. We wanted to remove the vulnerability of a family or group of friends gathering to go kayaking or mountain biking, so they couldn’t inadvertently violate the law or so somebody couldn’t call the county and say these people are doing outfitting.”
Felt agreed with Baker, adding, “My recollection from that session is that people were getting very hung up on the word ‘outfitter’ because there is statutory and regulatory language about outfitting. I’m not so concerned about the fellow who has a bunch of family and friends show up to go biking together, although an obnoxious neighbor who doesn’t like him could report him, I guess. But there are different regulations pertaining to things like fishing outfitting and a whole other set of rules for whitewater rafting outfitting. I felt like even using the term outfitter was causing us more confusion. There are other activities not covered by either of these statutes and regulations, but they look and feel like outfitting – running hounds, or dog sledding, or doing guided bike trips, or bird watching … I suggested that what we needed was a definition of ‘outfitting facility’ that is something along the lines of defining a commercial outfitting recreational business. Mike (Allen) said that was a good way to look at it.”
Baker and Felt attended the joint session with Planning Commission. Baker confirmed that the commissioners did not specify a time limit for staff to respond, which could have mitigated the current impression that the county is avoiding taking action. “We didn’t say don’t take longer than two weeks for the proposal, this is true. That’s where I last remember it. But you need to know that Commissioner (Dave) Potts thinks that this was done and it went to the Planning Commission and they must have voted it down.”
Planning Commission Chair Mike Allen is out of town and not available for comment. Vice chair Dan McCabe said the topic was discussed, but next steps were staff input, not planning commission. A check of Planning Commission agendas between June and September reveals no outfitting definition agenda items on their schedule.
“There are all these special uses of land based on the impact to neighbors. In Chaffee County we’re having new types of uses being proposed that we’ve never seen before,” said Planning Commissioner Marjo Curgus.
Both Baker and Felt raised the topic again at the end of the Oct. 2 Commissioners meeting, requesting that the topic be addressed. “I remember the meeting was bogging down because there are two different sets of statutes when it comes to outfitting,” said Felt. “We talked about business activities that would reasonably be called outfitting … to clear up confusion, rather than define what was under the current definition, we need a broader term along with a definition – something like the term ‘commercial outdoor recreation’ or something like that. I felt like there was a fair amount of consensus, but no real direction on how to proceed.”
“The planning commission heard it; it got denied and they asked staff to come up with better language. That’s what I think happened, we’ll check into it,” said Director of Development Services Dan Swallow. “The next two Planning Commission meetings are pretty filled up.”
“What I remember is, he (Moore) didn’t withdraw the request,” said Baker. “There were three parameters: frequency, outfitting for profit, and numbers of people involved. If it wasn’t covered in any Planning Commission subsequent meetings, then ultimately it will have to be dealt with. We can’t just let this sit there.”