In a meeting of the Chaffee County Planning Commission late Tuesday night, members decided to schedule a June work session to address the county’s definition of outfitting facilities.
Their decision followed a public hearing regarding a citizen-proposed text amendment to the county’s definition of outfitting facilities in the current land use code. The amendment would incorporate the state statute’s definition of outfitter and outfitting services.
The proposed text amendment is also on the agenda for a public hearing at 9:15 a.m. on May 8 during the county commissioners’ regular meeting at 104 Crestone Ave., Salida.
The planning commission hearing saw several people representing various sectors of the county population expressing their views, both for and against changes to the county’s current definition. Comments by ranchers, hunters, riding stables owners and mule trainers revealed their anxiety over the potential for interpretation of the current code to involve them in a violation.
“Selective enforcement must be avoided in all regards when it comes to an issue of land use and specific language of an operation utilizing that land,” said retired attorney Kate Larkin. “The ordinances and state statutes must provide to citizens notices of what their compliance issue or violations are.
“The current county definition does neither. Under the current definition, I have no idea what an outfitter is or how broad that outfitter definition is. I train and ride mules, I extensively ride on trails here, and I have many people who want to ride with me. I have a barn, a paddock, mules – so am I now an outfitting facility?”
The county currently has no definition of “outfitter.” The current definition of “outfitting facilities” in Article 15 of the land use code describes them as “the improved structures and facilities related to guiding services for outdoor expeditions, including fishing, camping, biking, motorized recreation and similar.”
The county staff report opposes the text amendment, citing concerns that the state statutes are not as inclusive of outfitter types as the county’s current definition. Planning Manager Jon Roorda repeated the staff memo’s finding urging that “the current definition allows for more flexible regulation of local outfitting facilities.”
“I agree there has never been a problem before because the county has never used the definition,” said Dave Moore, who made the proposed text amendment proposal. “This is the first time, and we can see what happened. So I’m requesting the change so this never happens again.”
Planning commissioners expressed concerns about both options of whether to leave the current definition as is or incorporate the Colorado state statute definition of outfitter and outfitting services.
“The state defines an activity, and we’re attempting to define a land use,” said Dan McCabe. “The state is attempting to define a physical activity. Maybe what we need to do is tighten our definition.”
“My conclusion is the community is really looking for more specificity on definitions and regulation,” said Commission Chair Mike Allen. “It’s one thing to have a definition of outfitter from the state statute, but the question is bigger. It has to do with land use. … My personal belief is the proposed amendment doesn’t go far enough.”
“Obviously, I missed a really important meeting – we’re talking about uses, but do we differentiate commercial enterprises?” asked Planning Commissioner Marjo Curgus. “What’s missing is the commercial component of outfitting – what uses are permitted? We do need a definition for outfitter.”
“I agree our code is not clear,” said Planning Commissioner Bruce Cogan. “I have an aversion to having a regulation that just gives government more power to regulate. I think we need more clarity, and we need a work session.”