La Plata County planning commissioners unanimously decided Thursday night to postpone a vote on whether to reclassify nearly 50 acres south of Durango to allow high-density mixed-use development.
The Kroegers, a longtime La Plata County ranching and farming family, recently submitted an application to reclassify their property north of Sunnyside Elementary School off U.S. Highway 550, hoping to diversify their ranching operation.
The “mixed-use” designation would allow up to six residential units per acre with the potential for commercial uses integrated into the development.
County planning staff recommended the proposal be denied because central water and sewer to support that scale of development does not exist in the area. Based on existing uses of the area, which are mostly residential, staff members also said the project is not considered compatible.
Planning staff said the proposal is not in line with the county’s comprehensive plan, a guiding document for growth that was updated in 2017, and the Florida Mesa District Plan that was adopted in 1996. Staff pointed out that the project may be better evaluated when the district plan is updated early next year.
Robert Bowie, with the planning department, said those documents, which set the vision for growth, do not identify the area where the Kroegers are proposing a mixed-use development as a future “growth hub.”
Members of the Kroeger family said they are not seeking a large, high-density development, but they need their land to be reclassified to explore any potential mixes of commercial and residential. Their hope is to make use of an under-used piece of land to supplement the rest of the ranching operation.
“We’re not big developers, we’re lifetime ranchers,” Tanner Kroeger said.
Tiffany Rhodes, a land agent with Southwest Land Services representing the Kroegers, said the Kroegers are looking to stay small and service the area they are in, perhaps through storage units or a small-scale RV park.
“We are asking for a smaller impact, but based on our current code … this is our only option to get to even the smallest use on the property,” Rhodes said.
La Plata County planning staff and commissioners agreed to postpone an official decision on the project to May 24. Before that date, the Kroegers and their land-use agents will identify more specifically where on the property and how much acreage they would like a mixed-use listing to apply.
The Planning Commission did unanimously approve another land re-classification proposal, which seeks to place more than 200 acres owned by the Hess family to large-lot residential (one residential unit per 3 to 10 acres).
That project is adjacent to the Kroeger property. Planning staff had recommended approval to the Planning Commission, saying the proposal is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, as well as the comprehensive plan and the district plan.
The designation at its maximum capacity could allow for nearly 70 homes. But Rhodes, who was also representing the Hess family, said it’s likely the development would realistically include less than 45 homes.
Alton Hess said the family is trying to develop the new homes in a way that would still allow for agriculture.
Several nearby residents expressed concern about the impacts to water. County planners said more specific concerns about water would be addressed at the time a development application is submitted.