The buck stop shere: A mule deer pauses for the
camera in a meadow along County Road 250 last
week./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Utes unveil vision for Grandview

Following a brief but intense conceptual planning process, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe gave the public a look at its vision for the development of Grandview. The draft plan for the future of the area immediately east of Durango has largely drawn praise.

In early September of last year, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Crader family announced plans to develop a 920-acre site roughly two miles east of Durango. A central component of the team’s plan is the donation of 35 acres to Mercy Medical Center, which plans to leave its undersized building downtown and relocate. The tribe hopes to have the property annexed within Durango city limits. For the project, the tribe and Craders have embraced the ideals of New Urbanism, a “back-to-basics” approach to community planning that concentrates on traditional town and city scapes. In this vein, the development team seized on a New Urbanism planning tool called a charrette and hosted a series of 13 community meetings over a week. On Wednesday, Jan. 8, a conceptual plan for Grandview was presented, which included as many as 2,500 new units configured in several, traditional neighborhoods. Features like storefronts, a grocery store, school, parks and a church provided focal points for the conceptual plan. At its heart is the relocation of Mercy.

“We still see the hospital as the big draw,” said Tim Zink, operations manager for the tribe’s growth fund. “It’s going to be the leading amenity for this neighborhood.”

Zink said that the goal of the project will be creating a self-contained and self-sustaining town. He said that things like the hospital and being able to include the needs of the school district will help achieve that aim.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a walkable community where people can live and work,” Zink said. “Hopefully the hospital can accelerate that. If we can draw hospital employees to live in this community, that’s a huge step.”

Zink emphasized that while the planning process has come a long way in a short time, it remains very conceptual. He said the charrette process was an effort to gauge public input and come up with a better plan. A long road still awaits the development.

“This plan is only the first step,” said Zink. “It’s a starting point, and now we can go out and start answering questions. We still have to go through the planning process with the city.”

The beginning of the city of Durango’s planning process for Grandview hinges on its revision of the comprehensive plan for the area. City Planner Greg Hoch said the revision should be complete in April. Hoch said that the Planning Department’s first impression of the conceptual plan is a strong one.

“We were impressed with the planned charrette process,” he said. “I think the quality of the work was very high, and there was significant logic in the position and concepts advanced.”

Like Zink, Hoch said that the process is just beginning. “It is still a conceptual plan, and it may change even before we have it for formal review,” he said. “But I think it’s a development concept that can work and be supported here.”

County returns to court on takings

A long-standing local lawsuit will return to court next week, as a local judge retries a lawsuit between Animas Valley Sand and Gravel Inc. and La Plata County. Animas Valley Sand and Gravel has charged that La Plata County’s zoning regulations amounted to a property takings.

In its 1993 Animas Valley Land-Use Plan, La Plata County designated 33 acres of the 46.57-acre gravel mining operation as a river corridor district and effectively made it off-limits to sand and gravel mining. In a 1997 court case, the gravel company argued that it had not been adequately compensated for loss of that mining, valued at roughly $2 million. Consequently, the company alleged that the county improperly confiscated its rights to mine along the Animas River, a property takings.

In 2000, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the county, and the gravel company appealed the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court later in the year. However, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision on a similar case at roughly the same time and hence modified the law. Consequently, the Colorado Supreme Court sent the case back to district court to be retried.

Of the question to be tried, Jeff Robbins, one of the county’s attorneys, said, “There are categorical takings in which real property is taken. The court will consider whether this could be considered a categorical takings, even if it’s not physical.”

The case will be heard Monday, Jan. 27. Robbins said that a resolution to the long-standing case will be welcome.

“The county’s action was in 1993, and the case was initiated in 1997,” he said. “It shows that it takes some serious time when you’re going through the appellate system.”

Campbell named deputy majority whip

Ignacio resident and U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., was recently appointed to a leadership position in the Senate. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appointed Campbell to serve as deputy majority whip in the 108th Congress.

Campbell expressed appreciation, saying, “I am deeply honored to be asked to serve in a leadership position in the Senate. I look forward to working with President Bush, Majority Leader Frist and Sen. McConnell to advance an agenda which will continue to strengthen our country.”

As deputy majority whip, Campbell will assist the whip in negotiating with senators and gauging the amount of support that legislation has prior to being voted on by the Senate.

“This is an outstanding team, and I look forward to working with them,” said McConnell. “Sen. Campbell will be a valued member of the Whip Team, and he will play an important role in working with his colleagues from both sides of the aisle to pass an agenda that will benefit all Americans.”

Group wants firefighting loans paid

The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition has called on public land supporters and state and local officials to contact the U.S. Congress and urge that funds borrowed for firefighting during 2002 be repaid. The 2002 fire season was the second largest in the past 50 years, forcing the Forest Service and Department of Interior agencies to borrow more than $1.3 billion from their nonfire accounts. The Department of Interior borrowed $254 million, mostly from low-cost construction projects. The Forest Service situation is more extreme, as it was forced to borrow more than $1 billion. President Bush has called for partial repayment of $825 million for both agencies, and the House voted to appropriate $500 million. In the end, Congress adjourned last year without approving any repayment amount at all.

Forest Service programs that are threatened if these funds are not restored include $143 million in approved land acquisitions, $20 million worth of hazardous fuel reduction projects around rural communities and more than $600 million in reforestation and habitat projects funded by timber companies as a condition of their permits.

Of particular concern to the No-Fee Coalition is $10 million that was borrowed from the Forest Service’s already underfunded recreation budget, along with $27 million from the roads and maintenance budget.






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