OURAY COUNTY BRIEFS | As Minutes Mount, Postponement of VIR Hearing Likely
by Samantha Wright
Sep 14, 2013 | 1614 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The much-anticipated continuation of the public hearing on proposed revisions to Visual Impact Regulations in Ouray County’s Land Use Code, Section 9 will likely be delayed by at least a week from the scheduled date of Sept. 24 because the minutes from last month’s verbal public comment portion of the hearing are taking so long to prepare. 

Board Clerk Linda Munson-Haley told Ouray County Commissioners this week that she is slowly and painstakingly working her way through 12 hours’ worth of testimony made by dozens of county residents over three nights on Aug. 7, 8 and 13. 

Because these comments will become part of the public record commissioners consider as they begin deliberating on the matter, Munson-Haley said she is treating the project as more of a transcript preparation than minutes. This makes properly compiling it a time-consuming task, cutting into her other duties. 

The BOCC cannot legally continue the hearing until the public record is compiled.

Munson-Haley estimated that the soonest she would be done with the project would be Sept. 23, not enough time for commissioners to properly review and digest the material prior to their scheduled date of Sept. 24 for reconvening the hearing. 

Technically, the BOCC will still be required reconvene the hearing on the 24th, but the only action it will take at that time will be to continue the hearing again to a targeted date in the future – likely the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 1. 



A proposed ordinance for the Regulation of Environmental Remediation Measures within and adjacent to the Panoramic Heights Subdivision passed on first reading at Tuesday’s BOCC meeting. 

Among other things, the ordinance spells out guidelines for excavation on Panoramic Heights and a neighboring tailings repository to preserve the integrity of the Environmental Protection Agency’s CERCLA removal action there, which removed the top layer of lead and arsenic contaminated tailings around existing homes and on vacant lots in 2009 and 2010, and replaced it with 18 inches of topsoil. 

Commissioner Mike Fedel emphasized that “there will be an education factor” for property owners and utility workers going into the future, since “this is only place in county you will need to get a permit before you can start excavating.” 

The ordinance also clarifies that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has waived its requirement for environmental covenants on parcels of land within the subdivision.

An accompanying intergovernmental agreement between the County and CDPHE also mandates that “upon receiving a building permit for a property within the Panoramic Heights Subdivision, the County shall provide a copy of the ordinance to the property owner and to the building permit applicant, if the applicant is not also the owner.”

The EPA has money from a recent settlement agreement entered into with Blue Tee Corp. regarding the American Lead and Zinc Mill Site, upon which Panoramic Heights was built in the early 1970s, and has indicated that it will share a portion of these funds with Ouray County to implement its new ordinance and execute outreach and education efforts for property owners, utility workers and title companies, going into the future. 

John Pulbratek, a resident of the Panoramic Heights subdivision, voiced concern about the general quality of work that the EPA executed in its cleanup efforts there. 



By a vote of 2-1, the commissioners approved the appointment of County Attorney Marti Whitmore as Ouray County’s new representative to the Gunnison Basin Roundtable. Commissioner Lynn Padgett cast the dissenting vote, advocating instead for the reappointment of the county’s current representative, Cary Dennison, whom she argued comes to the position with more practical knowledge of water use issues in the county, and has already built valuable relationships with other long-term Roundtable representatives. 

Dennison is also part of the steering committee for the newly formed Ouray County Water Users Group. Whitmore, who was hired as the Ouray County Attorney in 2012, is an expert in Colorado water law. 

Whitmore’s appointment to the Gunnison Basin Roundtable comes as the Colorado Water Conservation Board commences the task of developing a new Colorado Water Plan, as mandated in a recent executive order from Gov. Hickenlooper.

Padgett worried that as this work unfolds, “attorneys will direct and monopolize discussion while there is a very real need for input from people [such as Dennison] who use the water to irrigate for their own livelihoods.” 

She predicted that Whitmore, a former front-range attorney, “will face a degree of outsidership of the worst kind” on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, “which she will have to overcome very quickly.”



The Ouray County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a special use permit amendment for Top of the Pines to operate an outdoor education and recreation camp and center. Amendments will allow the sale and consumption of alcohol on the property and allowing bicycles on the trail system there. “I am thinking optimistically that Top of the Pines is at the brink of a new era,” Padgett said. 

The Top of the Pines board has scheduled an open house at its rustic, picturesque facility (an erstwhile Girl Scout camp) for Saturday, Sept. 21. The facility is located at the top of County Road 5 near the Elk Meadows subdivision. 

Commissioners also approved a funding contribution of $10,500 as a 50-50 match for a grant from the Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program which was recently awarded to Top of the Pines. The funds will be used to remove trees from the 40 acres of the property which are infested with mistletoe and mountain pine beetles. The previously unbudgeted expenditure will come out of County Weed Manager Ron Mabry’s budget, for now. 

The U.S. Forest Service forester who will be overseeing the project emphasized that it will be conducted selectively. “It’s not clearcutting,” he said. 

swright@watchnewspapers.com or Tweet @iamsamwright

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