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The long process to develop a new Chaffee County Comprehensive Plan took another step forward this week, with another a joint planning session on Tuesday, June 23, between the Chaffee Planning Commission and Chaffee County Commissioners. The session focused on
Future Land Use Plan: Salida, Poncha & Maysville Sub-Areas.”

Tuesday’s meeting continued a process that began a year ago with the kick-off of “Together Chaffee”.  The county contracted with planning firm Cushing Terrell to develop its first new comprehensive plan in 20 years.

This latest session was the latest in a series of meetings, each focusing on future land use for the different municipal areas of the county, within the zone referred to by planning professionals as a three-mile development area. With the input received from this session and prior sessions, the second draft of the Comprehensive Plan will be released in July, 2020. The county has confirmed that at that time, more public outreach sessions will be scheduled.

These areas are established by municipalities, in conjunction with counties, to guide where the town or city wants to see development occur. This determination then encourages development in areas that are easier for a town or city to annex, as well as to construct the necessary infrastructure — water, sewer, power, and roads — to developing areas.

In Chaffee County, there is a single guiding principle for identifying and encouraging development in these areas, rather than sprawling into the rest of the rural county. It is this strong conviction that here in Chaffee County we want to  “keep the country in the country and the city in the city”. Another aspect of these designated development areas is adding zoning overlays around some areas, directing special attention to how these areas are developed.

For instance, a plan known as an ‘airport overlay’ is just being finalized for the land adjacent and around the Salida Airport/Harriet Alexander Field. This plan will direct what kind of development can occur in the area, limiting residential development due to concerns both about public safety and sound. That overlay is necessary to maintain federal airport funding.

The Tuesday evening session focused on the city of Salida, the corridor along the  U.S. 50 into Poncha Springs, and the Maysville area. The overriding vision shared by all those in the planning session is that density needs to be kept as close to municipal areas as possible.

Regarding the Salida future development areas, the focus was on the area around and along the Arkansas River, the Vandaveer parcel, and the Smeltertown area. Each may have a different development future.

Those in the joint session expressed concern regarding the area of town around and along the Arkansas River; pointing out that it needs protection and planning to develop in a way that compliments the Salida downtown area.

“If we could create a river overlay plan, perhaps this area could be limited to only residential and recreational purposes,” said Cushing Terrell Consultant Dave Dixon.

The group agreed that the Smeltertown area, much of which is zoned industrial, continues to be a promising area for manufacturing businesses. The county has very little land that is zoned industrial, so the focus, according to Salida Administrator Drew Nelson will be to make sure that any proposed uses meet those standards.

The problem for long-term development in the industrial area; Smeltertown has several small, long-time residences mixed among the industrial activity.

The Vandaveer Ranch parcel on the far southeast edge of the city, which has been the subject of much controversy over recent years, still holds around 100 acres of undeveloped land owned by the City of Salida.

“It’s the gateway before you run out of land in Salida,” said Planning Commissioner Marjo Curgus.  Over the years various concepts have been proposed for the area, but a challenge remains; the funding to get utilities to the other side of U.S. 50, which needs careful planning to make the best use of the largest development parcel the city owns.

The U.S. 50 corridor plays a role in the future development areas envisioned for Poncha Springs too. Recent construction has leaned more towards strip commercial, with the construction of 24 Hour Fitness and the grocery-hardware store complex at U.S. 50 and U.S. 285.

“We’ve got to look at what’s going to happen to the U.S. 50 corridor, said Tom Moore. “Right now there’s ranch land, green spaces, views, between Salida and Poncha. Are we going to lose that? The mixed-use [development type] is what we’re doing.”

“Does Poncha want its urban expansion to be along the corridor, or somewhere else?” asked Curgus.

“We’ve felt in the past that the development needs to be along 50 and that’s all we have,” said Moore. “However I will say the mixed-use concept is working somewhat. Most people are using those units to live in instead of turning them into businesses. We’re doing it because the developers tell us this gives them the flexibility to take the chance to build this, that’s the reason we’re going this way.  But I feel we could take a different route.”

The area along U.S. 50 between CR 120 and CR 140 is designated mixed-use. The town, which in the past year has been more aggressive than either Buena Vista or Salida in adding housing units, weighed in regarding the future of mixed-use and where more residential units are envisioned.

“The leaning is at this point, in my judgment, away from strip commercial to clearly more mixed-use, to the point of having neighborhood commercial, not on U.S. 50,” said Poncha Trustee Dean Edwards. “Admittedly access on U.S. 50 generates traffic, but the plans are to mitigate that as much as CDOT will allow. Tom’s comments are right on. I’d say mixed use-commercial – that really implies more commercial than I think may take place.”

This was the last joint work session on the Comprehensive Plan scheduled for June 2020. Additional meetings may be added as required. The county is asking that those with any comments or additional questions or concerns should send  them to Jon Roorda at jroorda@chaffeecounty.org or Christie Barton at cbarton@chaffeecounty.org