Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Dear Editor,

I believe that citizens deserve a local government that operates in a fair and unbiased manner and respects citizen’s rights.  I have become deeply concerned that our Chaffee County Commissioners and Planning commission do not share these values.  Local government is given much power and authority, through Colorado Statute, to regulate land-use in order to protect adjoining property owners from incompatible uses and to allow a community to grow in a way that enhances overall quality of life.

Recently the Planning Commission and County Commissioners granted a permit for Aspire Tours to operate a Campground and Outfitter Facility in a Rural Zone, located at 11302 CR 190 W.   This approves Aspire to build ten campsites and seven cabins, under section 7.8.6 of the land-use code, and offer private shuttles to a variety of outdoor activities conducted offsite.  The application was opposed by the Chaffee County Heritage Board and over 600 signatures were gathered in a petition from neighboring landowners to contest the approval of the Aspire application [1].

The petition stated a variety of concerns including the need to “protect surrounding property owners from incompatible land uses”, and to prevent traffic hazards, wildfire risks, and stress to the local aquifer.  Despite this huge public outcry from the neighboring community, the County Commissioners granted the permit.

A prior, highly contentious, application for a campground under section 7.8.6 of the land-use code was submitted in 2019 for Agastache Village [2], a proposed 15-unit Tiny Home park at 7440 County Road 146, Salida.  The County Commissioners rejected this application, based on a public outcry from local residents, as not fitting with “an area established as rural”.

In siding with nearby residents who owned two-acre lots with big homes in the area, Commissioner Granzella stated “The intent statement is in the code – this is not in the right place. The [neighbors] understood this as two-acre lots, and they should see that continue. They based their living there on that.”

I agree with the County Commissioners’ decision to deny the Agastache Village application for a campground in order to respect the property rights of the landowners surrounding CR 146.  However, the hypocrisy of now ignoring the property rights of landowners on CR 190W in approving the Aspire Tours campground application is staggering.  The Planning and County Commissioners are required under Colorado Statute to regulate uses of land in the interest of the public welfare, without imposing undue burdens on landowners [3].

Given the workforce housing crisis we face today, I personally would like to see the county adopt less draconian regulations regarding Tiny Homes and permit them in locations other than commercial campgrounds.  However, I can see no rationale for how the public welfare is being served by permitting the Aspire Tours private commercial campground while ignoring the complaints of adjacent landowners, hundreds of Chaffee citizens and the Chaffee County Heritage Board regarding this incompatible adjacent land-use.

Constitutional principles seek to ensure: (1) fairness in the procedures; (2) fairness in the regulations; and (3) fairness in the implementation of the land-use code regulations.

In approving the Aspire application [4], the Planning Commission stated that “there are currently vacation rentals, restaurants, and recreational-based businesses within one-half (1/2) mile of the proposed site”.  This statement is extremely misleading, and one could argue specious. Vacation rentals are permitted under the Land Use Code if residents obtain a short-term-rental permit and Aspire Tours could similarly offer similar vacation rentals in the two residences they plan on the property without requiring a limited impact review.

Justifying approval of a commercial campsite and outfitting facility simply because adjacent landowners offer vacation rentals, does not meet the constitutional requirement of fairness in the implementation of the regulations.  From a search using Google maps, the only restaurants and recreational-based businesses within one-half (1/2) mile of the proposed site are the Independent White Water rafting business.

This facility is (1) on the other side of the Arkansas river, (2) is over six miles travel by road and (3) is located on Recreational zoning (not Rural) where Outfitting facilities are a use “by right” in the land-use code.  If the County has other information on similar commercial operations within one-half mile of the Aspire location then they owe it to Chaffee citizens to make this information public to show how they have met the constitutional requirement of fairness.   Otherwise, we are on a slippery slope in Chaffee County as this permit now sets a precedent for other landowners to claim “compatible use” adjacent to the Aspire Tour’s location and apply for approval to start similar campgrounds and/or outfitting facilities on their properties.

When the Chaffee County land-use code allows for a use “by right”, then adjacent landowners should not have the right to contest that permitted use. But when a land use is not “by right”, the burden should be on the applicant to demonstrate why the impacts to neighboring properties are not significant, and the county has the right, and responsibility, to deny an application that is inconsistent with the historical and/or current uses of the nearby properties.  Chaffee citizens deserve consistency and fairness from their local government.  In this case, the residents of CR 190W have received neither.

Alison Brown
Candidate for Chaffee County Commissioner, District 3

These are the references:
3. C.R.S. § 30-28-115; 101A C.J.S. Zoning & Land Planning § 3.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Alison Brown is an investor in Ark Valley Voice. She has no editorial control over the content.