The Chaffee County Planning Commission on Tuesday evening unanimously approved the sketch plans for the Larks Perch Major Subdivision near Poncha Springs. The proposal generated strong public reaction, and was one of two, controversial projects that kept planning commissioners and attendees in the meeting until nearly 11:00 p.m.

The Larks Perch sketch plan outlined a proposal by the Hutchinson LLC c/o Integrity Trust Company to subdivide a 36.87 parcel located at 9479 Hutchinson Lane into 14 lots; each with their own wells, and on-site wastewater systems. A large area of the site is comprised of slopes in excess of a 35 percent grade. According to Chaffee county Land Use Code, building on slopes exceeding 35 percent is not permitted.

The application says the area “is crossed by an existing natural drainage channel,” shown on site maps as three individual drainage areas. It goes on to say that “to ensure that storm water flows are allowed to flow unimpeded, a drainage easement will be provided for the existing channel.”

Art Hutchinson says it is more than that.

“It’s a gulch. It floods. You put roads up into a dry gulch – its steep as can be – and I’ve seen flash floods come out of there with boulders as big as cars coming down that slope,” said Hutchinson. “I’m against this proposal. It’s one of the worst places you could put a subdivision. My family owned that land for generations and we called it ‘the pocket’. When we sold the land for the developments that surround it, that gulch was supposed to be a kind of wild life corridor. We never intended that houses would be built there. I don’t think it’s safe. Maybe one house, but 14?”

Other members of the public echoed safety concerns, as well as the strength of the bridges to access the area, excess traffic along Hutchinson Lane, access to Bureau of Land Management lands, and the impact on their wells in the face of a county that already has water concerns.

The possibility of flooding in what was called “the historic flow path” was discussed.

“This is a dry wash, I don’t see why the Army Corps of Engineers would be concerned,” said Tracy Vandaveer, who is representing the requesting LLC, and recently resigned his position on the planning commission due to his project work load.

“You’re talking about taking three flows and put them into one flow. But wouldn’t that increase the storm channel?” asked new Planning Commissioner David Kelly.

The unanimous vote to approve the sketch plan was made on a motion by new Planning Commissioner Anderson Horne and seconded by fellow new Planning Commissioner Hank Held. Sketch plans are the first steps in the long process to gain approval to proceed with development. Multiple regional, and state agencies would need to weigh in during the upcoming phases.