Like everyone, I was disheartened to hear of the suspension of operations and layoffs at Camp Bird. Mining is a central part of Ouray County's heritage, and the recent mine reopenings promised good jobs and other benefits for our local economy. As recent events show, however, mining is a tough industry, given the huge upfront costs and wild swings in mineral values.
So, it's important that the county not add any significant new regulatory burdens on mining itself, and kudos to the Planning Commission for going out of its way in the Visual Impact Regulation update to address the two substantive objections raised by mining representatives.
The first was that the exemption for mining structures was too narrow – the proposal would eliminate the exemption for structures on "benches" and "hilltops." They correctly pointed out that mining structures often had to be located on these features, and the Planning Commission responded positively by restoring the wording of the exemption to what it has been since 1997.
They were also concerned about the historic manager's residence and mining office along County Road 361 as it passes through Camp Bird Mine and whether the exemption for mining structures would apply to them, since the mine wanted to fix them up. To remove any doubt whatsoever, the Planning Commission revised their recommendation to exclude the last stretch of CR 361 as it passes through Camp Bird Mine.
It's good to see our county planners respond so positively to make sure mining itself retains its broad exemption from the regulations. Like the recent letter said, as long as mines are mines they should be exempt.
If we are to learn anything, however, from the experience of other Colorado mining towns, we need to plan now for the non-mining development that is sure to come in the future. Thankfully, the proposed regulations do just that by including the unprotected alpine areas as protected view corridors, so that, when they do develop, they do so in a way that is sensitive to the jaw-dropping natural scenery that is at the core of why we live here and why so many tourists visit.
– Jennifer Parker, Ridgway