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High-density development a possibility on property east of Elmore’s Corner

Land-use change would allow for businesses, several hundred homes

A longtime La Plata County ranching family is considering building a high-density residential and commercial development on 700 acres along U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Bayfield.

The Burkett family is exploring development options for their land, about four miles east of Elmore’s Corner. The family has asked the county to redesignate the property to allow for hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses, comparable in size to Three Springs subdivision in east Durango.

James Burkett said his 700-acre parcel is a small portion of the family’s entire ranch that they have owned since the early 1940s. The family decided to pursue development as part of estate planning, he said.

“There are a lot of people like us who have ranched for many years, and we’re now older and realize we won’t be ranching forever and looking at our land, and thinking, what other things might be done with part of it,” he said.

Jason Meininger, director of the La Plata County Planning Department, said the land is currently designed as agricultural/residential. The Burketts’ home is the only house on the property; the rest is undeveloped. The family is asking to change the designation to a mix of uses.

The estimated breakdown would be:

200 acres of “mixed-use,” which allows high-density residential and commercial uses, or up to 1,200 residential units with the possibility for commercial uses mixed in.120 acres of “medium residential,” which allows six units per acre, or 720 total units.320 acres of large-lot residential, which allows one unit per 3 to 10 acres.Meininger said the proposal holds the potential to bring more than 2,000 new homes to the area, along with commercial options.

“It’s like another Three Springs, almost,” said Meininger, referring to the subdivision near Mercy Regional Medical Center that is planned out to eventually have more than 2,000 new homes, as well as commercial development.

He also pointed out that the entire footprint of the downtown Durango “grid” is about 400 acres. The town of Mancos is about the same size.

At this stage, the proposal asks only for a change to the allowed uses on the property; it does not go into specifics on what the property owners and developers are seeking to build.

If the map amendment is approved by the planning department, the family will invest the time and money to start to create the plan.

“Right now, we’re just checking into what it could possibly be,” Burkett said.

However, he said the family feels the broad vision of the project is compatible with the area because it is close to infrastructure, water hookups and has access from U.S. Highway 160 and County Road 223.

“We want to create a hub where people can live and possibly work and shop,” he said. “And with the growth anticipated in La Plata County, people will have to locate and live somewhere.”

Neighbors within 500 feet of the property were notified of the plans, per county code. Not many people showed up at a neighborhood meeting about the project, said Teresa Dickenson, an adjacent landowner.

Dickenson said she is not necessarily opposed to the Burketts’ plans, but she wants specifics.

“We have no idea what it’s going to be, and that’s the scary part,” she said. “It’s big, and it’s really going to change the character of the area, as well as the value of my property, one way or the other.”

The Planning Commission intends to consider the project proposal at its April 26 meeting.


Jan 20, 2022
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