A proposal by Montezuma County to expand property rights by increasing residential development potential in the Upper Dolores River Valley has prompted concerns about density and water quality.
A public hearing about proposed land use codes is set for Aug. 18 at 9 a.m. in the county commissioner room. The meeting can be attended in person, and will be broadcast online live through the Zoom link and on the county YouTube channel.
Public comment will be taken at the meeting and via online. To join the Zoom meeting online, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88913176760 Enter the meeting ID number: 88913176760
Proposed land use code changes would reduce the minimum acreage for a “single residence plus one accessory dwelling” in the Dolores River Valley from 10 acres to 1 acre.
The planning commission also recommends a 1-acre minimum for the category of “single residence plus one accessory dwelling” throughout the county, down from the current 3-acre minimum.
Setback standards for new construction and septic systems from the river are also being reconsidered.
Currently within the Dolores River Valley, all new commercial and residential construction, including individual sewage disposal systems, must be set back 100 feet from the existing stream bank of the Dolores River.
The county is considering reducing the 100-foot river setback for septic systems to 50 feet, which is the state standard. Reducing the 100-foot setback for new construction also is under review.
The 10-acre minimum standard for building in the Dolores River Valley and the setbacks were established to control density and protect the water quality of region’s main water source.
Engineered, closed-system septic systems are required for new construction throughout county, and that standard would remain in the code.
“The Dolores Valley should be treated no different than any other area of the county,” Rob Pope, chairman of the Montezuma County Planning and Zoning Board. “Engineering and proper construction can accomplish any structure on any slope, and this engineering also exists for sewer systems.”
About 100 people have submitted comments about the proposed land use code changes, said planning director Don Haley.
A Journal review of the comments showed support for the current code and its section limiting density in the river valley.
Concerns about increased development range from potential impacts to water quality, and potential risks of more construction close to the river and in the flood plain.
“Setbacks and density are the key elements against irreversible degradation of the watershed and water quality,” states a letter from the Town of Dolores signed by Mayor Chad Wheelus.
The letter states that the 10-acre minimum lot size was based on a two-year study in 2003 that “determined a total of 620 residences could be built in the Dolores River Valley without harming water quality and water availability, and the recommendations became part of the Montezuma Land Use Code.”
Many commenters also urged the hearings to be postponed until the risks of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic subside.
In presenting its recommendations for the change, the planning commissioner chairman said the 10-acre minimum is too restrictive for property owners, and that modern construction and engineered septic systems area sufficient regulation.
The Dolores Valley section of the land use code “needs to be eliminated as it affects private property owners’ rights in an over reaching manner,” Pope said.