County sets hearing for Dolores Valley Plan

Commissioners expect to make decision on land use during July 7 meeting

It's decision time for the fate of the Dolores River Valley plan.

For a year, the Montezuma County Commission has been reviewing the special land-use plan, and has been critical of its system of transferable development rights (TDRs).

On July 7 at the county annex, commissioners will have a public hearing on the matter and are expected to make a decision on whether to keep, throw out, or amend the plan.

"From what I understand, we will be making a decision at the meeting," said commissioner Larry Don Suckla. "I'm still undecided. The issue has been keeping me up nights thinking about it."

The planning department was tasked with coming up with alternatives to the current 10-year-old plan, which limits density to one home per 10 acres, but allows for those TDR building rights to be transferred for clustered developments.

The county considered several alternatives, including:

Cancel the plan, which would revert the valley back to a one home per three-acre land-use regulation.

Increase density levels from one home per 10 acres to, for example, one home for every 5 or 7 acres.

Direct the county planning department to cover platting and survey costs required for landowners to obtain a TDR certificate.

Amend the plan to allow valley landowners within a three-mile radius of the Town of Dolores boundary to have an additional residence per 10 acres with no additional TDR requirement provided both the primary and accessory structure are connected to the Dolores centralized sewer line.

The latter option was recently added, explained James Dietrich, community services director for the county. The Dolores centralized sewer line goes of a mile past the town limits up the valley.

"It opens the door for Dolores to grow incrementally," he said. "Increasing density in the three mile zone is a compromise."

Additional growth would depend on capacity of the Dolores sewer system, which right not is not at capacity, according to town officials.

The additional option stems from landowner Aaron Chubbuck's variance request to build an additional home on land just outside the Dolores city limits.

Chubbuck falls under the valley TDR system and is tied into Dolores central sewer. His proposed new home would also tie into the sewer system, but he needs a TDR to move forward. An exhaustive search found one potential buyer willing to sell a single TDR for $100,000, a price considered prohibitive.

"In my opinion, he is being harmed because of a government policy," commissioner Suckla said.

After in-depth reviews, the majority of the planning board has three times recommended the Dolores River Valley plan remain in place and that it effectively protects water quality long term while allowing for controlled growth. The town of Dolores supports the DRVP plan, and urging the county to keep it in place.

Under the plan, Montezuma County's portion of the river valley is estimated to have a carrying capacity of approximately 600 new homes and associated septic systems. Planners believed anything more could threaten water quality depended on by 27,000 residents in two counties and on the Ute Mountain Ute tribe.

Critics of the plan point to the fact that no TDRs have been sold, that the density cap is too limiting, and a regulations banning structures within 100 feet of the river is too stringent.