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The public hearing concerning the sketch plan for the Centerville Ranch Major Subdivision proposal will continue at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 12 at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds, 10165 C.R. 120 in Poncha Springs. The Chaffee County Commissioners’ public hearing on the project has already been continued twice; first on Feb. 12 and again on Feb. 21.

The Chaffee County Planning Commission approved a motion recommending approval of the sketch plan to Chaffee County Commissioners on Jan. 29. At the time, the plan was for a 210 home project on a portion of the nearly 1,000-acre ranch east of U.S. 285, with much of the ranch remaining in agricultural production. Since then, the number of homes has been reduced twice, and the sketch plan currently stands at 133 homes on approximately 495 acres of the ranch land. The latest proposal was made Feb. 21, the same day as the last public hearing, which caused commissioners to continue the meeting to allow both commissioners and county staff to review the new sketch plan.

Public concerns have focused on a variety of county hot-button issues. They include the cluster design, individual wells and septic systems, water supply, the project’s proximity to the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway, concerns over wildlife impacts and wildlife corridors, questions about density and the inclusion of smaller lots in the plan.

Overriding many of the objections is a continuing sentiment that the county stay just as it is now; something that, given the amount of development going on in Chaffee County, probably isn’t realistic unless some major changes are made to the comprehensive plan. At the very least, it requires two things: first, it requires the public to better understand the differences between availability of surface water, which so often raises the term “water augmentation certificates,” and groundwater, which underlies the entire valley ringed by our 14,000-foot peaks. Second, it requires a clear-eyed understanding of the impacts of the state’s 35-acre lot carve-up of rural lands and, in revising the comprehensive plan, putting in place practices that protect working lands and agricultural areas of the county over the long-term.

Ranch owner and developer Jeff Ince, has stressed that his vision for Centerville Ranch will be a 20 to a 25-year project; completed in eight phases in lots ranging from 1.5 to 9.25 acres, that it will include protection of the historic ranch structures, as well as protection of wildlife corridors and agricultural land use.