Wealth buys the commissioners’ blessing
The Dolores River Plan was the culmination of hundreds of hours of public meetings and debates involving residents from up and down the river, water and land-use experts, and community members from across the county and from all walks of life. The Plan, with accompanying setbacks, was put in place by elected county commissioners, was based on good science, and had broad public support.
This is not just a private property rights issue. Structures along the river corridor have potential impacts that go well beyond private property boundaries. If a structure gets swept away, it creates safety hazards for river users, spreads debris on other people’s property, has the potential to interfere with lake operations and cause navigation hazards as well as the potential for having water quality impacts on all downstream users, including domestic water supplies and irrigators.
Whether you agree with the Plan or not, it is still part of the county Land Use Code (LUC). The LUC makes provision for a variance process or special use permits, but Grant Smith refused to follow those provisions and instead counted on being able to buy his way out of the rules, and given the commissioners’ decision, he was correct. Mr. Smith knowingly and willfully violated the LUC, and even after being contacted about said violations, persisted and even accelerated his building schedule in order to have completion prior to his hearing.
Many other landowners along the river have wanted to build within the exclusion zone but have honored the LUC. The paltry fine levied was an insult to those residents and gives the impression that, in this county, if you have wealth, you can buy the rules and the blessing of the county commissioners.
I encourage periodic reviews of all the LUC and revisions as necessary via the public meeting and hearing process, but in the interim this decision has opened the door to anyone that is willing to pay to violate the rules. I’m sorry the commissioners have ignored the democratically instituted regulations and chosen money over public interest.