La Plata County proposes
Fearing property speculation
and ramshackle development, La Plata County staffers have proposed
a six-month moratorium on development in the Grandview area.
The county is also looking into transferable development rights,
which would encourage protection of open space by shifting density
into the Grandview area.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe
and the Crader family have forwarded a plan for as many as 2,000
new units on a 920-acre site roughly two miles east of Durango.
In addition, the team has agreed to donate 35 acres to Mercy
Medical Center, which plans to leave its undersized building
in town and relocate. Mercy’s plan is on somewhat of a
fast-track with the hospital’s board expecting to have
a contractor selected within the next 30 days. Joe Crain, county
planning services director, said that the county has no intention
of holding up hospital construction.
However, he added that the
hospital is driving some of the development pressure at Grandview
and hence the need for a moratorium.
“With the announcement
of the hospital going out there, it’s going to spur immediate
development, and speculation is probably happening as we speak,”
The Grandview area would eventually
be annexed by the city of Durango, and Crain said both the city
and county are concerned about sprawl. In particular, he mentioned
the potential for sloppy development on U.S. Highway 160, State
Highway 172 and County Road 234.
“We do not want to see
the kind of planning for Highway 160 east of Elmore’s
that happened with Grandview in the 1950s,” said Crain.
A moratorium also would allow
the Colorado Department of Transportation to complete its plans
for rerouting Highway 160, and the county and city would be
able put an intergovernmental agreement in place to jointly
handle planning for Grandview. The county would also use a moratorium
to put a structure for transferring development rights in place.
Such a structure would enable property owners to sell their
development rights on land the county would prefer to remain
as open space. These rights could then be transferred into the
Grandview area, which both the county and city have envisioned
as densely developed. Apparently, transferable development rights
have been successful in Boulder County.
“This is an excellent
opportunity for the county and city to set up transferable development
rights,” Crain said. “We figure that Grandview is
going to be a fairly dense area anyway.”
The Grandview area would serve
as a test-case for such a system. “If it works we would
want to see that happen in other areas as well,” Crain
With all of these goals wrapped
inside the proposed moratorium, Crain said he hopes that six
months will be sufficient. “We hope it will be enough
time,” he said. “We’re still going to have
to bust butt to get there.”
La Plata County commissioners
will make a decision on whether or not to enact a moratorium
at their Oct. 21 meeting.
A-LP construction on schedule
Though it’s been quiet on the headline
front of late, construction on the Animas-La Plata project is
proceeding apace. Funding for the controversial project, which
would divert water from the Animas and La Plata rivers to a
reservoir behind Smelter Mountain, has been the only hold-up.
The current work on A-LP includes the construction
of a pipeline from the pumping plant to the reservoir. In addition,
the groundwork for the excavation of the dam outlet-works tunnel,
a concrete lined tunnel 1,400 feet long, has nearly been laid.
Pat Schumacher, projects manager for A-LP, said that this work
should be completed by the end of the month and “next
year, we’ll come in with a tunneling contract.”
Schumacher also noted that substantial
archaeological work is underway in the construction site. Four
field groups are currently investigating numerous sites in the
“They know there are over 300 sites
that could be disturbed by construction,” said Schumacher.
“From what I’m hearing, they haven’t found
anything extremely exotic. They’re finding pretty standard
Schumacher said that the biggest, current
blockade for the project is funding. Specifically, the project’s
finances are tied to an appropriations bill in Congress. Until
that bill is approved, construction relies on a week-to-week
“We’re on a continuing resolution
right now that keeps us in business through the end of the week,”
Schumacher added that while construction
is full-steam ahead, A-LP is a giant project and that its completion
is anticipated in 2008. Only at that point would water be diverted
from the Animas and La Plata Rivers.
City drilling comes up empty
The near water crisis of late summer sent
the city of Durango scrambling for alternative water sources.
However, last week, the results of test drilling for back-up
wells were disappointing.
Run-off tainted by the Missionary Ridge
burn areas combined with historic low flows sent the city close
to mandatory water restrictions and in search of drinking-water
alternatives. One alternative was potential wells off County
Test holes were drilled to 140 feet to determine if the aquifer
would support municipal use. The results were disappointing,
but the overall situation has improved.
“The situation has changed a little
bit,” said Jack Rogers, Durango public works director.
“Rainfall in September was up, and flows in the Animas
River have recovered. The emergency we felt we had a month ago
is no longer an emergency.”
Rogers noted that the city will continue
looking for potential well sites but in different locations.
“We will still continue to do exploration.”
Task force nets more meth busts
Late last week, the Southwest Drug Task
Force seized more than one ounce of methamphetamine along with
quantities of MDMA powder, hashish and marijuana in a Durango
motel room. Auralee Moselely and Douglas Moran were arrested
on charges of possession with intent to distribute. More arrests
This recent bust comes on the heals of
a substantial Aug. 17 methamphetamine bust in Ignacio and several
With this in mind, Cpl. Dick Mullen, of
the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said: “They’re
doing an outstanding job but it’s a never-ending job.
Will you ever see the light at the end of the tunnel? I doubt
The Southwest Drug Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional
task force comprised of investigators from the La Plata County
Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation,
the Durango Police Department and the Ignacio Police Department,
made the arrests.
McInnis claims forest consensus
Last week, Congressman Scott McInnis
announced that he had achieved a bipartisan breakthrough on
legislation he has introduced to reduce wildfire threat with
According to a release from McInnis’
office, he gathered support for a modified version of the bill
from Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-Or.) and George Miller
(D-Ca.), in belief that a bipartisan consensus on the legislation
could be reached before the bill continued through the legislative
process. The consensus, according to McInnis, will generate
support for the bill as it is considered in a Resources Committee
mark-up Friday. “Over the last month, congressmen Miller
and DeFazio, who both have a long history on environmental issues,
stepped up and refused to let the status quo of conflict-ridden
inaction continue,” said McInnis.
“In that light, I challenge
Coloradans, environmental organizations and all those concerned
about the threat of wildfire to look closely at the Healthy
Forests Reform Act and choose whether to support consensus action
to responsibly address the wildfire threat around our communities
and in our forests,” he concluded.
The bill must now make its way through
both the House of Representatives and the Senate.