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A sketch plan that comes before the Chaffee County Planning Commission on Tuesday evening, Nov. 2 is already the subject of controversy; a proposal to subdivide parcel 6 of the Timber Creek Ranch Conservation Subdivision. The 184.27 acre ranch would be divided into fifty-nine (59) lots with the minimum being 0.86 acres and one additional “Outlot B” of 114.78 acres to be preserved in perpetuity as contiguous open space.

Wells and on-site wastewater treatment systems would serve the property. It is already scheduled for review by the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners on Nov. 16.

Payton Bondurant from Lakewood, Colorado fishes with her Grandmother at Lake Frantz at the 2019 Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited Fourth of July Kids Fishing Derby. Photo By Taylor Sumners

Concerned neighbors in this county rural area are already objecting to the density of a clustered housing development proposed by developer Walt Harder on what for decades has been ranch and agricultural land. They say that driving on CR 160 west down the hill to Frantz Lake would no longer be a bucolic rural view. Instead, it would hold nearly 60 homes (not counting an auxiliary dwelling unit (ADU) allowed for each property. Opponents say that traffic on the quiet rural road would most likely increase, making biking or hiking on the road less safe long-term, even without the years of construction traffic.

Among other questions, since the ranch has had a center pivot irrigation system, is the impact of at least 59 wells being drilled like so many straws into the water table beneath the ranch. The question now raised by many neighbors; what might this use do to rural neighbors’ water access?

The project appears significantly larger than the nearby Longhorn Subdivision, which caused conflict only a few years ago over its density and size. But the project has similarities to the Centerville Ranch cluster development in the center of the county, which was approved two years ago after significant controversy.

Neighbors say they feel betrayed that the county’s stated focus contained in the Chaffee County Comprehensive Plan would not be respected; to keep the country in the country and the town in town, and that the long lag between the plan and the new Land Use Code (on which the county has not yet begun) is allowing project like this to slip through.

The Timber Creek Ranch isn’t the only cluster development on the agenda. The Elk Run Cluster Subdivision of five parcels totaling 393 contiguous acres on CR 340 and CR 361 four miles west of Buena Vista. would develop a third of the property into a cluster subdivision with 29 four-acre lots with a main home and an optional ADU and four additional outlots of a combined 313.88 acres as contiguous open space. Here again, wells and on-site wastewater treatment systems would serve the property.

“Yes, growth is going to happen, but this proposed development does not promote growth in a way that fits the future vision of Chaffee County,” read a recent letter by Amy Guldan to the editor about the proposed Creek project. “A development of this scale in both density and number of lots in a rural area defies the values of Chaffee County, which prides itself on our beautiful, open agricultural land and abundant recreational opportunities.”

Chaffee County currently has 14 pending land use applications some for major subdivisions, and the pace of these development proposals shows no signs of slowing.