City hosts hearing on land use code

It’s time for the community to offer up its two cents.

After years of discussions, research, meetings and rewrites, the city’s draft Land Use and Development Code is ready for primetime.

The LUDC sets the future rules, giving officials, staff and residents guidance on the use and development of land within Durango’s city limits. It addresses new issues like landscape buffer yards and density calculations, as well as hot-button ones like grandmother apartments, also called accessory dwelling units.

The hearings give community members a chance to offer up their opinions and comments on the new code before it’s finalized by the City Council next year.

Just ahead of this step into the public process, the city planned to hold a joint meeting between the City Council and Planning Commission on Wednesday night with the intention of introducing residents to Bret Keast, a consultant hired to help the City with updating the code, who would present an overview of the project. His company, Kendig-Keast Collaborative, was hired in 2009 to help the City with the multi-year endeavor.

Keast’s flight was cancelled Wednesday due to weather and so were this week’s meetings. The city plans to reschedule both.

Several public hearings are planned over the winter. The next hearing still on the schedule is 5:30 p.m. Tues., Jan. 14, at the same location. Another will be held Jan. 15 if it’s considered necessary.

Now, as the city nears the finishing line, the community comes to the forefront.

To view a copy of the code, visit To comment, click on the "Get Involved" tab or send an email to, or call the City Planning Offices at 375-4850.


Udall to introduce Browns Canyon bill

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is hoping the third time’s the charm for Browns Canyon.

Udall, chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, said he will introduce legislation next week to create the Browns Canyon National Monument, which will encompass 22,000 acres of public land, including 10,500 new acres of wilderness, between Salida and Buena Vista. The area is home to the famed Browns Canyon, a 20-mile stretch of Class III whitewater on the Arkansas River that is the most visited run in the West. Last year, Browns saw nearly 170,000 river runners, making it the busiest stretch of whitewater in the country behind Tennessee’s Ocoee River.

This will be the third time since 2005 that legislation has been proposed to establish a Brown’s Canyon monument. Environmentalists, rafting outfitters and river runners have pushed for federal protection of the area for years as a way to draw more visitors and save it from oil and gas development. However, earlier attempts at a monument failed over concerns from the National Rifle Association about closure of a road for hunting access.

Udall is optimistic his version of the bill will pass as it allows for use of the road as well as the continuation of existing uses, including fishing, hunting, grazing, commercial outfitting, water supplies, mountain biking and motorized use.

“Over the last 18 months, I developed this bill working side-by-side with Chaffee County leaders, residents, businesses and other stakeholders,” Udall said in a news release Tuesday. “We developed this community-driven bill to ensure future generations of Coloradans can enjoy Browns Canyon’s unique mix of whitewater and wilderness. This grassroots bill will help create jobs, strengthen Chaffee County’s economy and preserve this special place for decades to come.”

The bill incorporates ideas derived from several public meetings as well as written comments and a series of meetings with stakeholders. The bill would not change current access, uses or management of the land, which is jointly overseen by the BLM, Forest Service and Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.

It would, however, ban commercial-scale mining on the bed and banks of the river as well as cattle watering tanks. It will also exclude new roads and motorized use from the 10,500-acre wilderness area.

Proponents have lauded the bill, saying it will preserve a national treasure while bringing jobs to the San Luis Valley.

“The time is right for protecting Browns Canyon, a stunning natural area that is renowned for both its critical wildlife habitat and world class river rafting and outdoor recreation opportunities,” Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, said Tuesday. “We applaud Sen. Udall ... the legislation is a well-balanced approach supported by a wide variety of stakeholders, local elected officials and businesses. These supporters know that protecting Browns Canyon is good for the local economy and the communities that benefit from outdoor recreation along the world class Arkansas River.” 


Real estate swindler gets 3 years

A real estate developer convicted of bilking local investors out of millions of dollars will be wearing stripes for the next three years. On Monday, Jim Kreutzer, 52, who now lives in Grand Junction, was sentenced to 38 months in prison for income tax evasion by U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez. Kreutzer was also sentenced to three years’ probation following his sentence and was ordered to pay $186,473 in restitution to the I.R.S., as well as a $10,000 fine.

Kreutzer waived his right to be indicted by a federal grand jury on May 7 and accepted a plea agreement. Under the agreement, he admitted to using his business, Village Nursery Inc.  as well as other entities he was involved with, to defraud and scam investors and lenders. From 2001-08, Kreutzer was engaged in several real estate projects in Durango including the Cottonwoods at Dalton Ranch, The Cove, Ptarmigan Ridge and Lightner Creek Village.

Personally and through his companies, Kreutzer repeatedly lied to bankers to obtain new loans, which he used to pay off old debt or for personal use. From 2007-08, he took nearly $1.4 million from his company, none of which was reported as income tax, and used it on such things as two homes, utility bills, a Mercedes Benz, jewelry and gambling sprees in Las Vegas.

However, by mid-08, Kreutzer was no longer able to obtain new loans or pay previous lenders, and things went south.

Since then, 22 cases have been brought, and won, by local residents against Kreutzer, for millions of dollars. One of the biggest against him is a $7.8 million suit filed by investors of The Cove.

This case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Norvell and Tim Neff. Kreutzer is scheduled to report for duty Jan. 2 at a yet-to-be-named prison.


Three Planning Commission seats open

La Plata County is looking for a few good men and women to fill soon-to-be vacant seats on its Planning Commission.

Two full-time seats and an alternate will be coming up in January as the terms of planning commissioners Jim Tencza, Tom Gorton and alternate Harry Agnew expire.

Planning commissioners serve an advisory role to County Commissioners, offering recommendations on land-use matters as well as updates to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Such duties include developing subdivision, land-use and environmental regulations; reviewing land-use and subdivision requests; and working jointly with planning commissions of other municipalities within the County when the situation dictates.

The board includes five regular commissioners and three alternates. The position is unpaid, although there is reimbursement for gas and meals. Terms are three years, and meetings take place the  second and fourth Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m.

For a more detailed description of duties or to fill out an application, go to or stop by the La Plata County Courthouse, 1060 E. 2nd Ave. Applications are due Sat., Dec. 21. For more information, call 382-6219.

Missy Votel and Tracy Chamberlin