Four former Montezuma County commissioners have sent a letter to the current board regarding the Dolores River Valley Plan. A public hearing to determine whether to alter or throw out one key element of the plan, its density-limiting system, has been set before the commission on Monday, July 7, at 1:30 p.m. in the county annex.
The following is the text of the former commissioners’ letter:
Montezuma County Commission
Ref: Dolores River Valley Plan
Pursuant to the commissioners’ upcoming public hearing on the DRVP, scheduled for Monday, July 7, 2014, we would like to submit the following comments as part of the public record.
All land-use plans should be reviewed from time to time by the appropriate policy maker, and the DRVP is no exception. What often occurs over time, however, is a loss of the historical perspective on why certain aspects of a plan were either initiated, and/or adopted. The DRVP is a case in point.
In the late 1990s, prior to the formation of the DRV planning group, an investment group met with the commissioners seeking a high-impact permit to develop a “Tamarron Style” development at Stoner. The master plan included an 18-hole golf course, lodge, condos, and home sites, all strategically located in relative close proximity to the Dolores River. Purchase of the Stoner ranch property, and a smaller parcel from Redburn ranch, was contingent on an approved permit from the county. Although LIZ was in place, and certain guidelines under the high-impact permit could be addressed, it became readily apparent that the potential impact of such a development on the ecology of the DRV, and watershed, far exceeded any regulatory measures the county had in place. The task for the commissioners was to make sure that whatever contingencies we put in place, would assure that there would be no negative effects to either the watershed or water quality, in the short or LONG term. Following several months of discussion, the proposal was dropped because of a loss of investment funding.
The lesson learned from this experience was that we needed a LONG-range plan for dealing with the Dolores River Valley. The valley is not just another piece of real estate in Montezuma County, it provides the life blood of our whole county, WATER. Some recent measures had been adopted to help maintain good water quality, e.g., engineered septic systems, but what potential impacts could come from increased residential and commercial development?
It became the unanimous decision of the commission to be PRO-ACTIVE on this important issue, rather than taking a re-active posture on any future negative impacts on the resource. Thus, the Dolores River Valley Planning group was created. It was comprised of representatives from the Town of Dolores, large- and small-acreage owners in the Dolores Valley, and citizens from other parts of the county. The Dolores River Valley becomes an integral part of every citizen in the county.
The working group was charged with examining every aspect of the Dolores River watershed, current and potential density levels, and resultant impacts on water quality, channelization, riparian areas, and flooding. Following the assimilation of all this data, they were to find a consensus among the group in formulation of a plan which would provide for development, but also protect the integrity of the watershed for years to come.
The plan took better than two years to complete, numerous meetings with a variety of resource personnel. The plan was reviewed by the Planning Commission, the commissioners, then a Public Hearing for input, followed by amendments, then adoption.
Although no land-use plan is perfect, there was a real effort to find a balance between property-owner rights, and the protection of the watershed resource, for now and into the future. Mechanisms were designed to allow for heavier density, TDRs, while still maintaining a maximum development potential. Set-back standards are always controversial, but rivers are not static, and channel migration is always occurring. A structure built 30 feet from the river today, may be threatened by natural migration in 20 years.
In reviewing the DRVP, and debating the merits of TDRs, set-back standards, density levels, and other components of the plan, I urge you to consider what is in the best interest of the Dolores River watershed, and all of the citizens of Montezuma County dependent on this valuable resource.
G. Eugene Story
Former Montezuma County Commissioners