High-density development in Animas Valley denied

Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018 11:01 PM
A proposed high-density development at 6559 County Road 203, just north of Trimble Hot Springs, was denied Tuesday.

A proposal to rezone 9 acres just north of Trimble Hot Springs for a high-density development of about 40 affordable homes was denied Tuesday by La Plata County commissioners.

For months, the project has ignited tensions between residents in the Animas Valley opposed the development and the developer, Greg Yucha, who said it would bring much-needed affordable housing.

Yucha’s plan was to build the development on three properties he owns, which include about 20 mobile homes on a little more than 9 acres north of Trimble Hot Springs along County Road 203.

To do this, Yucha applied to rezone the land to a higher density. In May, the La Plata County Planning Commission recommended the project be denied because of its density and because it did not fit with the area.

The proposal was officially denied Tuesday on a 2-1 vote, with La Plata County commissioners Gwen Lachelt and Julie Westendorff saying there were too many concerns to warrant approval.

Commissioner Brad Blake voted to approve the rezoning.

“I believe this is a bridge too far,” Lachelt said. “I appreciate your enthusiasm for trying to achieve affordable housing … but I believe it’s simply inadequate for increasing density.”

A contingent of residents from the Animas Valley packed the county’s administration building Tuesday to speak out against the proposed development, reiterating many arguments made over the past several months.

“I’m not against affordable housing, I just don’t think this is the place to do it,” said Mary O’Neil. “We’ve had a lot of density come in. … Trimble Crossing was a huge elk herd when we first moved here. Now, it’s not.”

Deb Paulson said the project has met stiff opposition from adjacent residents, and that approving the high-density development would alter the character of the neighborhood.

“The Animas Valley is a desirable place to live,” she said. “We’re not going to have affordable housing for the lowest-wage workers in town.”

Yucha said the project proposed to build about 40 cottage-style homes in the fashion of Trimble Crossing and Estancia, both nearby subdivisions. To make the homes affordable, the project needed to be high density, he said.

“The alternative is building six McMansions,” he said. “But that doesn’t do anything for people in this community looking for affordable housing.”

Lachelt and Westendorff also voiced concerns that the homes would be in the direct path of a debris fan, which holds the risk of mudslides, especially with the 416 Fire burn scar above the property.

Blake argued the county has approved projects in questionable geological areas in the past and that Yucha should be approved to the next planning level, which goes into greater detail as it relates to debris fans and other geological hazards.