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Montezuma County Commission Tables Proposal Reducing Lot Minimums In Dolores River Valley

Montezuma County
The Montezuma County Commission held its first meeting on proposed changes to the land use code in-person and via Zoom.

The Montezuma County Commission has tabled a proposal to reduce lot minimums in the Dolores River Valley after overwhelming public opposition over potential impacts to water quality and recreation. 

The proposal is just one of several recommendations made by the Planning and Zoning Commission as the county considers updating its land use code. In its recommendations, the commission said “The Dolores River Valley should be treated no different than any other areas of the County. [sic]”

But the changes that would affect the upper Dolores River Valley have drawn the most attention, including opposition from the Town of Dolores and the Dolores River Boating Advocates. The county commission also received more than 100 comments ahead of the meeting, which a review by The Journal showed the comments supporting the current code’s regulations on density in the valley.

Before opening">public comment Tuesday morning, Commissioner Larry Don Suckla asked if anyone in the room - or on the Zoom call where public comment was also being accepted - was in favor of the changes affecting the valley. At the time, no one spoke up.

After their own discussion, all three commissioners decided to table the lot minimum proposal and encouraged the public to also review the other changes being proposed, including the shrinking of lot minimums elsewhere in the county from three acres to one acre.

Commissioner Jim Candelaria said tabling the valley density proposal was also due to needing to consult the Colorado Department of Transportation about access to the highway that runs through the valley.

“If we can’t have access on and off the road, we’ve done nothing but change something in the code for no reason,” Candelaria said, adding that he would still like to discuss changes to setbacks and building envelopes in the valley.

Commissioners Suckla and Keenan Ertel agreed, with the latter saying, “At this point, [the valley] needs to be left alone.”

During public comment, residents largely focused on and against any changes to code affecting the valley. Bernadette Cuthair, director of planning and development for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, said the tribe is particularly concerned about the effects of valley development on water quality.

“I would certainly encourage no changes at this time,” she said.

Several comments at the meeting also addressed the code update process as a whole by encouraging the commission to hold meetings on the changes outside of usual work hours and to continue offering an online option for those who do not want to visit in-person during the pandemic.

No votes were taken on any of the proposed changes at Tuesday’s meeting. A follow-up public meeting will be held on Sept. 22, following additional discussion by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 10.