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County planning commissioners approve subdivisions
12/28/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
La Plata County Planning Commissioners recommended approval of two almost adjacent subdivisions along Highway 172 on Dec. 13, but they rejected a similar subdivision along County Road 523.
All three are at the preliminary plat stage. All three have homes served by individual wells and septic systems.
Todd and Cathy Calderwood’s proposed Ignacio Creek subdivision is at 10662 Hwy 172. They propose nine lots ranging from 3.14 to 17.56 acres. The total property is 80 acres. The creek snakes north-south through the middle of the 80 acres.
The plan has designated building envelopes with 200 foot setbacks from the creek, and private open space. The layout also is complicated by three irrigation ditches, two wetlands, and a creek tributary.
Most of the land is open pasture, without trees or ridges to hide the homes. So planning staff wanted homes clustered. The project was redesigned to do that.
Clustering satisfied planning staff on development in open areas visible from the road and surrounding properties, and the effect on neighborhood density.
Staff recommended approval, with a finding that the project is compatible with neighboring uses, densities, and character of the neighborhood.
The proposal has average density of one unit per 8.88 acres. The average parcel size within ¼ mile is 36.5 acres, and the average density within ¼ mile is one unit per 32.29 acres.
The land already has one house and outbuildings, and a gas well.
Planning commissioners approved the preliminary plat 5-0 despite concerns about the precedent this might set for neighborhood density and about the amount of water that sometimes flows in Ignacio Creek.
They included a condition to require a plat note that none of the lots may be re-subdivided for 25 years, and a condition to study the creek flows to make sure the access bridge is big enough.
Sorrel Ranches subdivision
John and Shanan Wells’ proposed subdivision is a short distance east of the Ignacio Creek subdivision, at 11402 Hwy 172. They propose nine residential lots on 79.168 acres, with lots ranging from 4.939 acres to 15.84 acres.
Average density is one unit per 8.79 acres. Average parcel size within ¼ mile is 32.59 acres, according to the staff report, although the average parcel size near the Ignacio Creek proposal was listed at 36.5 acres.
Like the Ignacio Creek proposal, it has two clusters of building envelopes with private open space. Most of the land is irrigated pasture, but the building envelopes are in elevated pinon-juniper stands outside the pasture. Like Ignacio Creek, this project was redesigned to satisfy planning staff on these issues.
Two irrigation ditches cross the property. There is one existing house plus outbuildings.
Like Ignacio Creek, staff recommended approval with findings that it is compatible with neighboring uses, densities, and character of the neighborhood.
Planning commissioners approved it unanimously, also with a plat note to prohibit re-subdivision of lots for 25 years.
Lotus Springs subdivision
Planning commissioners found this one a lot more problematic, even though the proposal is similar. It’s in the Bayfield Planning Area. The others are in the Southeast Planning Area.
Gary Springfield wants to subdivide his 76.53 acres along CR 523 into seven residential lots ranging from 3.7 to 23.3 acres, with average density of one unit per 10.93 acres.According to the planning staff report, that’s not compatible with the surrounding area, because average lot size within 1/4 mile is 60.26 acres, and average density within ¼ mile is one unit per 46.08 acres.
The land is designated ag/ rural residential, allowing average density up to one unit per 10 acres. Neighboring land to the west is designated perimeter residential, which allows average density up to one unit per five acres.
County planning staff recommended denial on grounds that it doesn’t meet public benefit criteria in the Bayfield Area Plan, and is not consistent with neighborhood density or character of the neighborhood.
The proposal would have to satisfy 97 percent of public benefit criteria to be allowed the maximum average density of one unit per 10 acres. This proposal satisfies 65 percent, planning staffer Katherine Harrison-Rogers said. (Public benefit criteria are not used in the Southeast Planning Area, which does not have an adopted plan and land use map.)
As an alternative to denial, staff recommended continuing the project and directing the applicant to reduce the number of lots or redesign the project to make it compatible.
Crowbar Creek runs through the south part of the property. The land is just west of where 523 turns south.
The proposal includes designated building envelopes and a total of 64.72 acres of common and private open space. There is already one house plus outbuildings and a gas well on the land.
Access to six lots would be on the gas well road, called Lotus Springs Road. It would be brought up to county standards. The existing house would be on lot 7.
Except for lot 6, the building envelopes put homes within tree clusters or behind knolls. Lot 6 is open meadow. Staff wanted to eliminate that lot. Springfield wanted to proceed with that lot included.
The project got marked down for lack of clustering, even though more than 50 percent of the land would be common or private open space. It also got marked down for the open meadow on lot 6.
The house on that lot would be highly visible from the road and surrounding properties, the staff report said.
Project engineer Scott Fleming argued the planning staff’s desired layout would have the gas well road split lot 6, and the access for lot 4 would go through lots 5 and 6.
The project has been in the works since October 2006, with meetings to deal with county staff concerns in February 2007. The lot 6 issues weren’t raised until August and September “after a year of work,” Fleming said.
He disagreed with the way the public benefit criteria were scored. “This layout (as proposed) works better from an individual lot standpoint. We’ve tried to apply clustering on this in the way that fits the land the best.”
What planners want would have “three lots in a row looking at each other, the houses will be more prominent than what we are proposing,” Fleming said.
Landowner Gary Springfield reiterated that the lot 6 issues didn’t come up until late in the process. He objected that the definition of clustering is vague.
“I walked the land extensively before I started this, to put the homes in places that are aesthetically pleasing,” Springfield said. It’s because of the gas well road that lot 6 doesn’t meet the clustering criteria, he said.
Harrison-Rogers responded, “They said they didn’t find out about staff issues until August. I have documentation going back to February that staff had problems with density and the public benefit criteria. (The developer) did work with us quite a bit to mitigate this. Staff doesn’t feel this meets clustering or preservation of open areas, to increase the (public benefit) scores.”
Planning commissioner Alan Cathcart commented, “This doesn’t look like clustering.” He wanted to deny it.
Planning commission chair Wayne Buck thought the one unit per 10.93 acres is an acceptable density. “I was out there this afternoon. … Standing in the middle of the road, I counted 12 houses. So not compatible? There are 29 homes on this road. Most of them are within 100 yards or less of the road. You can’t say this isn’t compatible with the rest of the area. It fits in perfectly.”
He added, “The home sites would be more pleasing than most everything you see on CR 523. I can see no reason to deny this.”
Planning commissioner Travis Craig said, “There should be some leniency” on this, but he wasn’t ready to recommend approval. He wanted it continued.
Planning commissioner David Black objected that the original intent of residents who created the Bayfield Area Plan was to designate minimum lot sizes, not average densities where some lots could be much smaller than the average.
“They didn’t want a bunch of three acre lots. My feeling is this doesn’t meet the Bayfield criteria as the people devised it,” Black said.
Planning Commissioner Vernon Greif said, “I’ve had trouble with this averaging. (The proposal) strictly doesn’t meet the Bayfield criteria, that’s for sure. I’m having a hard time with this one.”
In the end, planning commissioners voted 3-2 to deny the proposal, with Buck and Craig voting against denial.
No comments were received from adjacent landowners or other concerned parties on any of these projects, according to the staff reports. Because of that, no neighborhood compatibility meetings were held.