A Montezuma County woman who hopes to open a preschool on her rural property south of Mancos was faced with concerns from her neighbors Thursday night at a Montezuma County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
Beverly Capelin is seeking permission from the county to open a 1,300-square-foot preschool licensed for 15 children ages 2.5 to 5 years. The school would operate between September and May. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend approval to the Board of County Commissioners, but not before hearing from Capelin’s neighbors.
Russell and Theresa Marcum own 90 acres of farmland directly west of the Capelin’s 127-acre property. The Marcum’s hired Durango attorney Jeff Kane to help articulate their concerns at the meeting.
“It’s hard to live in a world where we think that farms could somehow be incompatible with kids, but we also know there are people out there that might complain about pesticide use and whatnot,” Kane said.
He said the Marcums wanted to have their concerns on the record in case there were conflicts that arose between the working farm and the proposed preschool. He said his clients would like the Capelins to mitigate any compatibility issues and build a fence around the preschool to avoid contact between children and livestock.
Capelin said she is familiar with issues related to farming. She said that she and her husband, Doug, keep 25 horses on their property and they hay their fields. On the fence issue, she said that’s required by law.
“When the kids go outside the back door, we have to have a fence there,” Capelin said. “Now there’s a fence already there with the Marcums, and we don’t have — your animals don’t come into our property.”
Russell Marcum, said he didn’t want anyone to say his farming techniques were making kids or teachers sick.
“We just wanted to make sure that everybody knows that we are a farming community here,” Marcum said. “There are ... things that happen, the dust, the fertilizer spray, and it drifts, and you can’t help it.”
Planning Commissioner Bob Clayton said he knows there is a big need in the community for child care and stressed that there are protections in the county for farmers.
“This is a farming community, and I don’t see any of those regulations protecting farm ground to change anywhere in the future in this county,” Clayton said.
Other neighbors expressed concern about the potential for increased traffic. The site for the preschool is about 1.5 mile south of Mancos and about 0.3 mile directly off County Road 41. Arthur Krill, who lives nearby on County Road H.25, said he doesn’t want the preschoolers commuting near his land.
Capelin noted that County Road H.25 is a circuitous route that would essentially add an additional mile to reach the preschool. The Planning and Zoning Commissioners, however, included a condition that preschool patrons must use County Road 41 to reach the preschool.
Another neighbor, Susan Blackman, who also lives on County Road H.25, expressed similar concerns regarding traffic. She said it’s a farming and residential area and the Capelin’s existing business venture, Deer Hill Expeditions, has already added more traffic to the area.
“It’s a very small, county road,” Blackman said. “It wasn’t designed to carry the up to 30 cars that they sometimes have parked on their property in the summertime for their other business.”
According to the Deer Hill Expeditions website, Beverly and Doug Capelin provide wilderness adventure and cultural exchange through community service to 150 participants each summer and 20 to 30 organizations throughout the year.
“While other companies might focus on leading a tour or teaching specific technical skills, Deer Hill goes beyond these services to include the richness of supported self-discovery,” the website states.
Marcum said he just wanted to get his concerns out in the open and he’s not opposed to the idea of a preschool. The attorney summarized his position.
“At the end of the day, we all believe that kids are compatible with farming and fields, but we don’t know who is going to come around in the future and raise the issues,” Kane said.