The La Plata County Planning Commission on Thursday denied a high-density housing development in the Animas Valley and approved a high-density proposal just north of Sunnyside Elementary School.
The approved proposal was from the Kroeger family, longtime county ranchers, to change their property designation from agriculture/rural to a mixed-use designation, which allows high-density commercial and residential development.
The family had previously requested 48 acres be reclassified but changed that request to about 19 acres.
The Kroegers have said they do not plan on building an actual high-density development. Instead, they hope to build things like a storage business to help supplement income for their agricultural operation.
La Plata County planning staff had recommended the proposal be denied because high-density development on that portion of U.S. Highway 550 is not compatible with current uses there and would change the character of the area.
All five planning commissioners in attendance voted to approve the land-classification change. Any actual plans for development would go through a separate process with the commission.
By far the more controversial project was a proposal to rezone 9 acres just north of Trimble Hot Springs for high-density development.
The developer, Greg Yucha, said he wanted to build about 40 cottage-style homes in the fashion of Trimble Crossing that would be geared toward providing affordable housing.
Yucha owns the 9 acres, which are split in three parcels. To the north of the property are 20 existing mobile homes.
“The lack of housing in La Plata County makes it difficult for me to grow my business,” said Yucha, who also owns a construction company. “Most drive up from Farmington and take their paychecks right back to Farmington.”
A public hearing on the proposal elicited more than 20 heated comments from residents split on the matter.
Those in opposition argued the district plan for the Animas Valley, which includes zoning, was created to preserve the low-density, pastoral nature of the area and that rezoning Yucha’s land would be defying the plan.
“What’s the value of zoning if we don’t enforce it when the community is against development?” said Deb Paulson.
Others questioned whether Yucha would actually deliver on his promise of affordable housing given how expensive other homes are in the Animas Valley. Darryl Metz said homes in Trimble Crossing go for almost $500,000.
And, many neighbors opposed to the project said high-density will affect traffic and infrastructure.
“If we increase the density, we increase the problems,” Metz said.
But just as strong a voice Thursday night were those highlighting the dire need for affordable housing in La Plata County. Many feared Durango and the county would lose their sense of community if working class people can’t live in the area.
As far as the project not fitting the vision laid out in the Animas Valley district plan, those in support of Yucha’s proposal said when it comes to affordable housing, there’s usually never a good place.
“Durango is growing,” Geoff Owens said. “And there’s nowhere to live.”
County planning staff recommended the project be denied because it does not meet the criteria and vision set in the neighborhood’s district plan.
Planning commissioners voted 4-1 to deny the proposal, with Commissioner Ryne Waggoner casting the vote in opposition.