A landowner’s plan for a lodge in The Forks subdivision to assist veterans is allowable because commercial use was designated in the 1971 covenants, the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners affirmed last week.
The Forks is at the confluence of the West Fork and Dolores Rivers on Road 38.1 northeast of Dolores along Colorado Highway 145. Three lots are designated for commercial use under the subdivision covenants.
Terrence Milligan owns one 1.06-acre commercial lot and plans to construct a cabin with a common area that includes five units for up to 10 people, according to the county planning department.
Services would be provided for military personnel and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other disabilities, using dog interactions and trainings.
Milligan said his intention is to build a lodge in a peaceful, outdoor setting to help veterans. He comes from a family of veterans and has seen how time in the mountains has benefited them, including his father. For veterans with traumatic experiences, the lodge surrounded by rivers and mountains are a place for them to find solace and healing, he said.
“The Forks retreat is a very humble place where people can come to stay and find their selves again. No internet, no cell service. Hiking, fishing and exploring,” Milligan said. “I am building a first-class facility – no shortcuts.”
During recent county commission meetings, some neighbors expressed concerns about the project, including potential impacts from increased traffic on the narrow private road, road maintenance, more people, dogs and pressure on the community water well.
“We are concerned it will change the character of our community,” said one neighbor.
They urged the commissioners to require a high-impact permit process and conduct public hearings on the project, but the county disagreed.
“He has a historic, commercial development right based on the neighborhood covenants, and we do not control that,” said commissioner Jim Candelaria. “As a subdivision, it’s important to reach out and communicate with each other to work out issues.”
The development was approved by the commissioners as presented, said planning director Don Haley, because it complies with the county land-use code and is within a designated commercial lot of the subdivision.
A high-impact permit is not required because the project does not exceed development threshold standards, he said. It does not exceed the 15 round-trip per day threshold standard for traffic.
If the operation exceeds threshold standards in the future, then it would trigger a high-impact permit process, Haley said.
A new, waste-water treatment system for the facility is being installed and is regulated and permitted by the Montezuma County Health Department’s environmental division.
The county commissioners approved a Certification of Use Permit for Milligan, and granted a setback variance to allow construction closer to the lot line. The covenants have a 10-foot setback from lot lines, but the county requires 50-feet for new construction since the land use code was passed in 1998.
The commissioners also approved an update to the county zoning map designating the three lots in The Forks subdivision as commercially zoned.