Last week I, along with many other community members, attended the sketch plan hearing for the Centerville Ranch development. Like all of the others present who spoke, I am very concerned about many aspects of this proposal. While it is difficult to rank these concerns by priority, two in particular stand out for me and to many others at the first hearing.
1. Availability of water supply and impact on existing water users.
A geologist friend provided me with a copy of a water study that was completed some time ago. It was published by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Geologic Survey in cooperation with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and was entitled “Hydrology and Quality of Groundwater in the Upper Arkansas River Basin from Buena Vista to Salida 2000-2003” by Kenneth Watts. Reading this report raised even more concerns as this area is a closed basin with the only recharge coming from precipitation. As we all know, there is limited precipitation in our high mountain desert area. Replacement of any lost groundwater takes from five to 48 years to be replenished according to this study. That is based on the number of current wells at that time and projected wells. To add a development of this size and density using wells and septic will blow the projections of this study. Not to mention the potential for contamination from the close proximity of septic systems to wells.
2. Inappropriate density for the rural area outside of existing town centers.
The community has historically opposed this density of development in the rural zone and has most recently reinforced this vision of growth planning during the Envision process. While the owner/developer of the property indicated that he would be open to discussion on some changes to his plan, the project engineer who spoke as his representative stated that the Envision process has no bearing on this project. That statement negating the community planning interest at the last hearing was reprehensible and an indication of the developer’s intent to build what they want where they want without regard to community input and desire.
There are many other concerns especially concerning wildlife and wildfire. It is time for our county to take a proactive planning approach in order to achieve the vision expressed by the community and to allow developers access to the insights provided through a comprehensive planning process. Until this process can be initiated and completed, I join the voices calling for a moratorium on development outside of the three-mile influence zone surrounding designated town centers. Let’s slow this down and get our plans in order.