Town continuing to refine its watershed ordinance

Hearing continued until May 19

The Crested Butte Town Council will give the public another opportunity to comment on the ordinance designed to protect the town’s watershed from the effects of development. The Town Council agreed unanimously on Monday, May 5 to continue its public hearing on the watershed ordinance until May 19.



During the May 5 meeting, town attorney John Belkin presented the Town Council with the latest draft of Ordinance No. 8, Series 2008, which took into consideration concerns raised by Irwin residents during a previous hearing. The new draft includes new standards for the storage of substances considered toxic near water bodies, construction on steep slopes, and new setback requirements for construction near lakes, streams and wetlands.
The watershed protection ordinance will allow the town to take advantage of a state statute that permits towns to prohibit and mitigate impacts to their water supply within a five-mile area. The town first adopted a protective watershed ordinance in 1978 and revised it in 1996. The town has been working on this version for the past year, during which time it adopted a temporary moratorium preventing development within the town’s watershed in August 2007. The ordinance essentially requires a permit for land use change activity within the town’s watershed, with varying degrees of overview, depending on the project.
Belkin explained that the new draft of the ordinance continues to prohibit the storage of toxic substances in the watershed but does allow for the presence of ordinary consumer items that might be considered toxic, including gasoline in vehicles, laundry detergent, etc. Irwin residents had expressed concern that those substances might be banned under the original draft.
Belkin also noted that he had added a section to deal with development near water bodies that mirrors the contents of Gunnison County’s Land Use Resolution (LUR), the guiding document for land development in the county, and standards outlined by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCOGG), a group that has spent a number of years studying water protection standards.
The new section establishes a restrictive 25-foot buffer between construction activities and water bodies and an outer buffer that undulates, depending on the time of year and the feature in need of protection. “I think we came back with really good standards comprised of a two-tiered buffer system,” Belkin said.
In addition, Belkin said a provision that would have prohibited building on slopes greater that 15 percent was eliminated in favor of regulations for building on slopes that closely mirror what’s allowed by LUR. “People thought it was too strict,” Belkin explained.
Belkin then urged the Town Council to continue the public hearing to allow more time for citizens to comment. “We received some comment today from people who have asked us to continue the public hearing so they can have an opportunity to provide more thorough and complete comments,” he said. He then urged people to submit comments to the town as soon as possible so they could be included in the final draft of the ordinance that the Town Council will consider on May 19.
Attorney David Leinsdorf said he represented Scarp Ridge LLC, a company that plans to develop the existing Irwin Lodge property, which is in the watershed. He said he hoped to meet with the town to discuss some issues with the ordinance. “We’re not trying to delay, obfuscate, the passage of your ordinance,” Leinsdorf said. “We’re trying to make serious, well-considered, constructive comments to make it stronger and less vulnerable to legal attacks.”
Lucky Jack mine community liaison Perry Anderson said U.S. Energy Corp., which is proposing to develop a molybdenum mine within the watershed, had serious concerns about the measure. He said the company believes the ordinance steps outside the bounds that the state has granted the town to mitigate impacts in its watershed.
Anderson urged the Town Council to abandon Ordinance No. 8 and continue to draw on the existing ordinance. “You’ve had a good working document in place for a number of years—it’s adequately protected the watershed and drinking water supply for Crested Butte,” he said. “I’d encourage you to go back to the original document…This ordinance, as it’s written, seems to have negative effects on the people living and working in that watershed.”
However, Bob Salter, the mineral lands director for the environmental group High Country Citizens’ Alliance, praised the document and urged the Town Council to pass it that night. “It provides adequate protection for the current health and integrity of our watershed,” he said. “What you’re considering here is fully within the scope of the law.”
The Town Council briefly discussed Salter’s suggestion  to adopt the ordinance and then opted to continue the public hearing. “One more public hearing is nothing else but good process,” said Town Council member Billy Rankin.
The Town Council will consider the passage of the watershed protection ordinance during its meeting on Monday, May 19 when the public hearing may be concluded.

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