Thumbs down to Animas Valley rezone

Commission recommends against adding commercial development

A proposal to rezone a residential Animas Valley property as neighborhood commercial did not gain the support of the La Plata County Planning Commission.

The commissioners voted to recommend denial of the proposal, a decision that marked a victory for Animas Valley residents who saw it as a threat to the area’s rural character and its 20-year-old land-use plan.

The volunteer commission voted down the proposal to rezone the 6.8-acre parcel at 8218 County Road 203 on a 4-to-1 vote. The property, zoned as 1-acre single family, is subject to the Animas Valley Land Use Plan, so a rezone proposal requires a hearing before the Planning Commission and the county commissioners.

The four planning commissioners in the majority agreed with arguments made by about 20 attendees at the meeting, all of whom opposed the proposal. Attendees said the rezone would compromise the neighborhood’s rural character and tight-knit feel and it would go against the goals of the Animas Valley Land Use Plan.

“One by one, folks are trying to shoehorn in their own movement to change the area toward commercial, more dense development,” Tom Milazzo said. “We made this plan specifically so we knew what to expect in our neighborhood.”

The county’s planning department also recommended denial of the project based on its incompatibility with neighborhood plans on either side of the property.

Nancy Lauro, a planner with Durango-based Russell Planning & Engineering and representative for the applicant, argued any development that occurs in the rezoned area wouldn’t go forward unless it is compatible with the neighborhood. That’s because any development on land zoned as neighborhood commercial requires a special-use permit that can be granted only if county commissioners determine the development is in line with the area’s character.

A rezone also would create a much-needed opportunity for commercial or business ventures in that area, Lauro said. Uses allowed in a neighborhood commercial zone include neighborhood-oriented businesses, professional offices and bed and breakfasts.

But residents denied there is a need for the type of commercial ventures the rezone would allow.

Commissioners acknowledged what seemed to be a united sentiment among the area’s residents.

“The Animas Valley residents have a very specific plan, and they seem to be almost 100 percent behind it,” Commissioner Wanda Cason said. “To me, this just doesn’t mesh with the neighborhood compatibility definitions the Animas Valley people have put in place for themselves.”

Commissioners also expressed concern with the lack of access to the property from U.S. Highway 550.

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