|The buck stop shere: A mule deer pauses
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
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
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
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
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
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