Over the last three years, there have been two planning initiatives to determine how Chaffee County citizens wanted to move forward.
The first was Envision Chaffee County. This process engaged several thousand citizens to give their input to the issues and vision for Chaffee County.
That process demonstrated the clear need for a new comprehensive plan. As if our present comprehensive plan being 20 years old wasn’t enough, the process demonstrated clear public desire for a new comprehensive plan.
A second process was started to draft that new plan, and the consultants tasked with development of that plan have held countless meetings at each end of the county and engaged hundreds of citizens who were able to raise their voices to issues as they saw them. As one who was involved in both processes, I think that the consultants have been very open and receptive to all voices.
But now we have a few voices that claim things that are false. The first false statement is there is limited developable land in Chaffee County. There are roughly 655,000 acres of land in Chaffee County. Of that, about 550,000 acres are controlled by various government entities. So that leaves about 100,000 acres in private hands.
Of that land, about 80 percent (80,000 acres) are in tracts of 100 acres or more. This land is clearly developable. That means that roughly 80 percent of the county’s private lands are developable. The reason this land is not developed or available for development is that the owners don’t want to sell.
The other argument is that they need more lots to sell because demand is high. This is false. Late last year the Chaffee County assessor’s office identified 2,700 vacant lots in Chaffee County with approximately 1,800 lots in the unincorporated county.
Within a 1-mile radius of my home, there are more than 20 lots listed for sale and dozens more vacant. Most have been on the market more than two years. If demand was so high, why are so many lots unsold?
The last false argument is that a rancher won’t be able to give a few acres to their children for a house. There already exists an exemption process for this that bypasses the land use code and the Planning Commission.
The last point I want to make revolves around lot size. I live in a development of lots 10 acres or more. The elk, deer, pronghorns and predators can live and move through our development. Fences are moved back from lot lines by 15 feet, creating 30-foot-wide wildlife corridors where there are fences. It has a very rural feel. One-acre lots are urban densities, not rural, and have no place in rural areas. A requirement of 10-acre lots for the rural areas is appropriate.