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First review finds Animas Valley RV park noncompliant with code

Developer has 120 days to address issues
The first review of a proposed luxury RV park at the site of a former gravel pit in the Animas Valley on Trimble Lane (County Road 252) has highlighted numerous areas in which the plan does not comply with the county’s land-use code. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The La Plata County Planning Department has notified the developer of a proposed luxury RV park in the Animas Valley that the project application does not comply with the county’s land-use code.

Scott Roberts, the Arizona-based developer behind the Durango Village Camp resort proposed on Trimble Lane (County Road 252), has 120 days to correct the noncompliant findings.

Residents of the Animas Valley have voiced impassioned objections to the 277-stall luxury resort, which would include spots for RVs, prefabricated tiny homes, a clubhouse, pickleball courts and public access to the Animas River.

Roberts submitted an application for a minor land-use permit in August.

In a March 11 letter to Roberts’ team, a consultant hired by the county’s planning department made an exhaustive list of 80 individual comments on elements of the project in need of attention, including 28 issues raised by members of the public.

Some issues of noncompliance were minor and easily correctable, such as the submission of an illegible handwritten document.

Others appear more substantial.

“The Land Use Code provides compatibility criteria that don’t appear to be met,” the letter says, referring to the compatibility assessment necessary before a minor land-use permit can be issued. “… The density of the proposed RV park does not correspond to the density of the Dalton Ranch subdivision to the north and the west and the large lot of agricultural properties to the south and the east.”

The findings might be a short-lived victory for the project’s opponents, who have raised repeated concerns about the density of the project and its compliance, or lack thereof, with the county’s land-use code.

Members of an ad hoc group organized under the name “Animas Valley Action Coalition” have rallied neighbors to submit over 100 individual comments to the county planning department to protest the development.

“We are pleased and optimistic that our County has returned to following our LUC in making determinations,” organizer Dorothy Wehrly wrote in an email on behalf of the Animas Valley Registered District Advisory Committee in a nod to her previous allegations that planning staff members had not followed the code. Wehrly is no longer a member of the AVAC, but was a leader of the group last year.

Community Development Director Lynne Hyde framed the thorough scrutiny as a function of quality customer service – the more in-depth a review is initially, the more information the applicant has to get the proposal to a spot where staff members can recommend the project for approval.

Roberts declined to answer specific questions about the compliance finding until his team had had a chance to review it in depth.

Scott Roberts talks before the La Plata County Planning Commission in January 2023. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

“It is surprising how much false information is being spread currently,” he said in an email.

AVAC members have continually pushed the idea that the project does not conform to the Animas Valley District Plan, not only because of its density, but because the “RV Cabins,” “Park models” and permanently placed RV units should be classified not as recreational vehicles, but as mobile homes.

The planning department agrees, it appears.

“Based on the images provided in the application materials and narrative, all three uses/building types appear to have permanent foundations and do not meet the definition of an RV and, ultimately, an RV Park,” one comment reads, in part.

Hyde said the project may need to be reviewed through the lens of both a mobile home park and an RV park, depending on how the developers revise it.

However, not all the findings support the claims of the incensed neighbors.

The group’s sixth point listed on its “Top 10 impacts” page lists wildlife impact as a major concern and says “Disrupted migration/travel routes, traffic, noise and light pollution will have huge impacts on our precious and irreplaceable wildlife.” The concern about wildlife migration was also brought up in a 28-point summary of public comments that the applicant has been asked to address.

But the district wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife wrote that the agency believes “the impacts of this proposal will be minimal to wildlife and wildlife habitat.”

Darlene Koontz, left, and Dot Wehrly speak to a crowd gathered in March 2023 at the Animas Valley Grange as the newly formed Animas Valley Action Coalition organized its opposition to the proposed RV park near Dalton Ranch. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Although some clarification on the location and development of sewage infrastructure may be needed, Hermosa Sanitation District’s Board President Michael McCardell said he is “pretty confident” the project will not hasten the need for a mechanical sewage treatment plant. This assurance directly contradicts the AVAC’s point that the resort could cost Hermosa Sanitation District users millions of dollars.

Roberts now owns the 36-acre property; he purchased it for $4.6 million in January 2023. Despite Wehrly’s suggestions to do so, he has given no indication that he will abandon his plans to develop the property.

Although the laundry list of concerns may be interpreted as a blow to the project, it is unlikely to be a fatal one.

“We work to find everything that needs to be modified in order to get a project to a point where it can be recommended for approval,” Hyde said. “I think that saves time in the long run – to do a more comprehensive review the first time.”


A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the group for which Dorothy Wehrly spoke. She provided comment on behalf of the Animas Valley Registered District Advisory Committee.