That was the question brought to the Ouray Board of County Commissioners Tuesday by Planning Commission Chairman Ken Lipton. Lipton admitted that his volunteer board was split on numerous aspects of the ongoing revisions to Section 9 of the county’s Land Use Code. But, he said, if the visual impact regulations can be demonstrated to serve the common good, economically as well as aesthetically, then he thinks the board’s work, several years in the making, can be completed.
“If we can look at valuations inside and outside visual impact corridors,” Lipton said, we might be able to counter claims by some in the community who feel that the existing regulations – on setbacks, screening, skyline integrity, etc. – actually hurt property values.
“There are definitely two sides to the economic value argument,” said BOCC Chair Heidi Albritton.
Commissioner Lynn Padgett said, “I really believe we can look at valuation trends over time. If we can intersect Susie’s [County Assessor Susie Mayfield’s] data with our parcel map, our GPS information . . . I would like to see someone do that. I think that would be important information. We could use the every-two-year mass appraisal information back to 1999-2000. And see how that correlates to the visual impact corridors.”
Albritton told Lipton, “We will contact the assessor’s office and see” about beginning such a data comparison.
SECTION 30 ALPINE ZONE: REOPENING OLD WOUNDS
As a final item in his progress report to the Ouray County BOCC, Planning Commission Chair Ken Lipton brought up the suggestion, from a minority review of the draft changes to Section 9 Visual Impacts, that the county reopen discussion on something called “Section 30,” a rancorous, 12-year-old conversation about the special nature of the South Alpine Zone vis-à-vis visual impacts.
“Let’s just call it Section X,” suggested Commissioner Lynn Padgett. “It never became a section” of the Land Use Code.
In fact, said County Planner Mark Castrodale, “That thing died a horrible, painful death. To reopen that thing is a huge risk, I think.”
Commission Chair Heidi Albritton gave a little history: “Section 30 discussions were taken off the table [in 1999] because large numbers of property owners in the alpine zone didn’t want to be singled out for visual impact restrictions while the rest of the county was doing more or less what they wanted.” A decision was made then, she said, “as a philosophical concept,” to apply the regulations broadly, and shallowly, across all regions and topographies of the county, rather than try to craft different visual-impact regulations for different sections of the county.
Padgett pointed out that a significant percentage of the current planning commission doesn’t know this history and suggested a joint work session to “get everyone on the same page.”
“I’m not OK with reopening Section 30,” Albritton said emphatically. But she did agree to attend an upcoming planning commission meeting, with Planner Castrodale, to lend some historical perspective.
“I’m very pleased with the offer,” Lipton said. “I think that will help clarify a lot of issues.”
TIRE CLEANUP GETS YET ANOTHER CONTINUANCE
Montrose lawyer Amy Ondos came before the Ouray County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday to request on behalf of her client, Lawrence “Butch” Gunn, a third continuance of the county’s Notice and Order requiring cleanup of the illegal tire dump on Gunn’s property above Burro Creek on County Road 4.
Upward of 1,000 tires from the property came down into Cow Creek and the Uncompahgre River during a thunderstorm and flash flood in July of last year. An unknown number, perhaps 4,000 additional waste tires, remain on the property, Gunn says, for erosion control. The county wants all of the tires, those in the river and those still buried on the Gunn property to be removed.
Ondos first requested a continuance of the Oct. 5, 2011 order on Oct. 25, claiming that high water due to fall rains made removing all of the river tires too dangerous. She then requested a second continuance on Dec. 6, because Gunn and Keith Maynes (of Maynes Tire in Montrose, the alleged source of the waste tires over a 30 year period) had not yet received definitive answers from the two other agencies, besides the county, with jurisdiction, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Ondos was asking this week for a third continuance, she said, because “winter conditions” prevent them from retrieving tires from the fragile riverbanks.
“Pretty soon we’re going to be in spring runoff,” said Commissioner Lynn Padgett pointedly. “And then we’ll be back to high water again, and a year will have gone by.”
“Our Notice and Order concerns the [cleanup of the] property itself,” Commission Chair Albritton clarified. Ondos and Gunn are challenging the notion that they have to remove the remaining tires at all, that they do not, in fact, constitute a solid waste dump but are simply a time-honored form of erosion control. They say they are also challenging the Army Corps’ involvement. “I mean, Burro Creek is not a ‘navigable waterway,’” Ondos said.
“Do you have an engineer?” asked interim County Attorney Kathryn Sellars, indicating that whatever happens with the agencies involved, Gunn will need an engineer to design the cleanup.
Ondos answered, “No. We’ve kind of had a split focus. Mr. Gunn and Mr. Maynes have limited financial resources. And Mr. Maynes had knee surgery last month, and that has slowed him down a little bit.”
Padgett interrupted: “If we continue this, would you have an engineer by the next meeting?”
Ondos: “We hope to, yes.”
Albritton: “We obviously have a difference of opinion on what constitutes a sold waste disposal site. All these continuances . . . We want to work with you. We want this cleaned up. I would encourage you to comply with all of these issues. We need some tangible signs that you all are moving forward on this.”
With no other option, really, the BOCC agreed to continue the hearing until their March 13, 2012 meeting, with the caveat added by Commissioner Padgett that the board receive a status update on or before Feb. 21, “on your progress toward hiring an engineer, your progress with the state, and with the Army Corps.”
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