What exactly is an outfitter and how is a Chaffee County resident to know whether or not he or she is in compliance with county land use code regarding recreational activities launched from their property?
Those questions may or may not be answered in two upcoming public hearings regarding Chaffee County Land Use Code, Article 15: Outfitting. The first is at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, before Chaffee County Planning Commission, followed by a 9:15 a.m. public hearing Tuesday, May 8, during the county commissioners meeting.
Is a citizen an outfitter because a shed on their property is the repository for recreational equipment – from skis to golf equipment, fishing gear and backpacking equipment – used when friends come to visit? What if a friend offers to pay for a backpack damaged during an outing on a nearby fourteener. Does that make you an outfitter because you received money for gear?
Is a resident an outfitter because friends come up to hunt at his elk camp during open season and use his camping gear and guns?
Is a member of Trout Unlimited an outfitter because members meet him at his house as he preps to guide fishing enthusiasts for the group?
“Right now there is no definition for outfitter, only a definition of outfitting facility,” said resident Dave Moore.
On March 6 of this year, Moore made a citizen request to Planning Manager Jon Roorda for a text change amendment to address this land use code oddity.
“I want to see the Colorado statute for the outfitter definition applied here in this county because it would make it easier to understand. Right now it’s being applied subjectively.”
The questions are not frivolous. In a recent county land use code case, the county’s ambiguous interpretation charged the resident with being an outfitter, but when pressed, the county could not definitively define “outfitter” or what the resident was doing that constituted outfitting, nor could they explain what on the property constituted outfitting facilities.”
Lack of clarity means the county staff could continue to apply subjective and inconsistent interpretation on a case-by-case basis.
“I think it would make it easier for the planning commission in the future,” said Moore. “It removes the ambiguity. If the county chooses to accept my suggestion, then we’ll match state statutes. If they don’t, then we’ll know.”
According to process, the county is required to respond within 15 days of submission to schedule the amendment proposal for consideration by the planning commission and the county commissioners.
On April 2, Moore contacted the county asking about the proposed amendment, noting the county was 10 days late responding. On April 5, the county confirmed the process and scheduled the hearings.
As currently defined by Chaffee County, “Outfitting facilities” are “the improved structures and facilities related to guiding services for outdoor expeditions, including fishing, camping, biking, motorized recreation and similar.”
Moore’s request a definition both for “outfitting facilities” and “outfitter”. Outfitting facilities: The improved structures and facilities related to Outfitters Services by Outfitters as defined in C.R.S. 12-55.5-102 (5.5) (5).
The states current definition of Outfitter is in the professions and occupations (Article 55 Outfitters and Guides): “Outfitter means a person soliciting to provide or providing for compensation outfitting services for the purposes of hunting or fishing on land the person does not own.”
“I’m glad it will finally get a hearing,” said Moore, who said he’s worried that the fumbling attempts to apply the terms in land use code will have unintended consequences.
“If we continue the way things are, it feels like the county wants to keep us all off balance, free to define outfitter any way they choose. Matching the state statute would clear this up.”
Moore said he isn’t sure yet whether the outfitter definition he proposed will actually be what is reviewed, but his purpose in asking for the change is to serve the public interest. (See his letter to the editor regarding additional comments and the upcoming public hearings.)
“This affects just about any resident who engages in recreational activity in this county.”