Montezuma County Commissioners decided no major changes will be made to the Dolores River Valley land use code for limiting density and protecting water quality.
During a well-attended public hearing, the commissioners agreed to keep the 10-acre minimum lot size in the valley and retain the 100-foot setback standard from the river for homes, structures and septic systems.
The hearing was held to discuss a recent proposal by the county Planning and Zoning Board to reduce the 10-acre minimum in the Dolores Valley to 1 acre and reduce the 100-foot setback to 50 feet.
Those recommendations were rejected.
“I’ve not had one landowner contact me that they like this idea,” said Commissioner Larry Don Suckla.
Commissioner Keenan Ertel said he was “comfortable with the Dolores River Plan” as it is, and there was “enough leeway” to make practical variances when necessary in the existing plan.
Commissioner Jim Candelaria also agreed to continue with the main parts of the Dolores Valley plan, and that more study would be needed before reducing the lot size.
Changes that would increase density in the limited space of the valley would require an access study from Colorado Department of Transportation, he said.
“That valley is different because of the state highway access and the river,” he said.
The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners was considering limited adjustments in the valley plan. They said are willing to discuss reducing setbacks for structures in the valley from roads to provide builders a little more room. Eliminating a required 230-foot diameter circle for a building footprint also was considered.
The board received 130 comments before the hearing, with overwhelming support for limiting density in the Dolores Valley, county officials said.
Other proposed changes to the code outside the valley were still up for consideration, the commissioners said, including:
Reducing the minimum lot size outside the valley from 3 acres to 1 acre. Reducing setbacks on buildings from property lines and roads.Changing notification language from “adjacent” property owners to “adjoining” property owners.Change high-impact permit language allowing it to remain in effect if business or property is dormant, vacant, or changes hands as long as no change of use occurs.About a dozen people spoke at the public meeting in person and from the live ZOOM internet feed.
There was a tense atmosphere as speakers prepared to argue for keeping the plan’s restrictions that protect water quality, the environment and rural qualities.
Instead, a sense of relief passed over the crowd after commissioners dropped major proposed changes to the valley plan.
“Thank you for your pragmatism and for taking a measured approach,” said Ken Curtis, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
Dolores Water Conservancy District submitted a letter urging the county to resist increasing development in the river valley, which supplies McPhee Reservoir and feeds farms and municipalities.
“Thank you for considering our comments and listening to our concerns,” said Marianne Mate of Dolores. She urged an inspection program for septic systems be put in place to determine which ones are failing.
Other changes discussedCommissioners also heard arguments against the proposal to reduce the three-acre lot size to 1 acre. But one man expressed support for it.
Some wanted additional inspections in the river valley to ensure compliance with setback regulations from the river.
“There are new homes right on the river,” said Larry Berger.
River setbacks are important during flood stage, he said, to prevent sheds with chemicals and “diesel from going into the river that is our drinking water and irrigate our fields.”
Jeane Becker suggested a 1-acre minimum would cause a population surge and strain roads, schools and water supplies.
“Mathematically, there would be the potential to triple the population,” she said. “Drought is becoming more of a norm. Will there be sufficient drinking water for the increase in residents?”
On the other hand, Bill Woody said, a 3-acre minimum would force buyers to acquire more acreage than they needed, and sellers to give up more land than they wanted.
“I’m for changing the minimum,” he said. “We should have right to dictate property lines.”
Reducing the minimum lot size also could decrease open space in the area, speakers said. Increased density would put fiscal pressure on the county to maintain roads and infrastructure.
“The 3-acre requirement has served the county well,” said county resident Jerry Koskie.
The space and setbacks reduce potential impacts on neighbors including for individual septic systems, he said, adding that “protection on the river is vital to everyone in this area.”
Pat Kantor, a resident of the Dolores Valley, said buyers need to be aware of the regulations for building in the river valley. A booklet of the regulations for the valley should be created and given to real estate professionals to hand out.
Inspecting older septic systems when property changes hands also is needed to protect the river, Kantor said.
“New homeowners need to know about the importance of limiting density and the importance of the flood plain,” she said.
No decisions were made at the hearing. Another public hearing on the land use code will be Sept. 22.