A proposal to reclassify 700 acres between Durango and Bayfield to a designation that would allow a large-scale residential and commercial development was approved 4-1 Thursday by the La Plata County Planning Commission.
The property, owned by the Burkett family and about 4 miles east of Elmore’s Corner, was classified as agricultural/residential.
The proposal, which was approved, now has the land classified as 175 acres of mixed-use, 130 acres of suburban residential and 400 acres of large-lot residential.
La Plata County planning staff said there could be more than 1,300 residential units if developed at maximum capacity.
Planning staff recommended the project be denied based on mostly two factors: the development would not fit the character of the area in which the project is proposed, and that the Planning Commission should wait until the Florida Mesa District Plan is updated given the scope and size of the project.
“This is a proposal of a significant scale,” said planner Daniel Murray.
The Burketts, for their part, maintained that they do not intend to develop a project at maximum capacity. They assured the commission they would retain ownership of the land during the development process.
“We’re not trying to cram in here a lot,” Mac Burkett said. “I see services going in like a nail salon, a hair salon, a Chick-fil-A, Bread ... There’s just immense opportunity in this area.”
A public comment period drew people from both sides in support and opposition of the project.
Those in support said given the anticipated growth in the county, the project would meet demands for housing and commercial opportunities.
Others feared the project would significantly turn a rural landscape into a sprawl of shopping centers.
“It’ll look something like Farmington with strips all along the highway forever,” said Don Meek, an adjacent landowner. “That takes away from the people there to enjoy the environment without being invaded by 100 different fast-food restaurants.”
Ultimately, the planning commissioners felt the area was appropriate for future growth. They were further persuaded from a letter by Florida Mesa District Plan members who said they were in support of the project.
Specific development plans for the parcel would have to go through a county approval process.
Also Thursday night, the Planning Commission unanimously approved a request to reclassify about 1.69 acres in Vallecito to a mixed-use designation for an existing ATV rental business.
Though Altitude ATV & Side by Side has been in operation since 2012, its owners, David Blaylock and Amy Burchfield, purchased the current property at 32 Middle Mountain Road about three years ago, hoping to expand the business to offer other rentals for recreation.
The business has been operating at the bottom of Middle Mountain Road without proper county permits, but the owners said Thursday they will pursue a Class 2 land-use permit.
Neighbors in recent months have been split. Supporters say the business would benefit Vallecito’s economy, while others oppose the noise and impact to the natural, quiet setting of the lake northwest of Durango.
La Plata County staff recommended that the Planning Commission approve the project on the basis it would not significantly alter the existing character of the area, while at the same time, promote economic growth, which are priorities laid out in the Comprehensive Plan and Vallecito district plan.
Tiffany Rhodes, a land agent with Southwest Land Service representing the owners, said much of the conversation in the community at Vallecito has been about overall ATV use in the area, not whether Blaylock and Burchfield should continue their business.
No one spoke during the public comment portion of the presentation.
Planning commissioners also approved a mixed-use designation for most of a 16-acre parcel east of Durango near the Leeder property. A portion of the property was left out to serve as a buffer zone to adjacent neighbors.