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‘Residents must understand consequences’ of Roberts Village Camp Durango

David Sanderlin

Can you trust our county codes to protect from development you never imagined? We in the Animas Valley thought we could. We were wrong!

The Animas Valley has something the rest of La Plata County does not. We have actual zoning. In 1993, rapid development occurred in the valley. Citizens combined, worked with the county and got zoning ordinances passed, including a codified purpose of “preventing high density housing development and maintaining the rural quality of the area.“ (LUC 65-4.V.A.). These zoning ordinances were meant to stay in place. When this zoning was adopted, all special permits required a Major Permit process heard by the Board of County Commissioners. Stay tuned for more on that later.

Our county deemed putting a huge high-density glamping resort in the Animas Valley OK, including our county manager who said “your zoning makes that easier.” A document provided by another county official explained that a Special Use Permit (now a Minor Permit process) for commercial properties in the Animas Valley allows “low-intensity, tourist-oriented recreational activities.” RV parks are a named use.

But by its subjective interpretation of the code, it ignored the “low-intensity” verbiage, although it agreed that “low-intensity” was a modifier. We in the Animas Valley read it differently. Given the history of our zoning and its encompassing preservationist intent, “low-intensity” absolutely applies to all the enumerated uses, including RV parks.

The application for Roberts Village Camp Durango is now being filed. Its implementation has been described as like dropping a whole city into our rural area. VCD wants 277 total sites: 137 sites for luxury motorhomes and 140 “cabins” (permanent tiny homes on wheels) shoehorned onto a 36-acre parcel. Initially, its plan requested 257 RV lots and 49 cabins.

The 277 number is larger than the number of dwellings in North and South Dalton Ranch combined. At 9.1 sites per acre, it is much higher density than the surrounding area (average 1 home per acre).  Roberts also plans to eventually have more cabin sites than RV sites, rent cabins for up to 180-day stays year-round and sell cabins to private owners. Our county code (LUC 73.5-III.H) limits stays in RV parks to 60 days.

This development fits the description (LUC 62.5) for a “Mixed-Use Development” with “two or more different principal uses.” This proposal is for a Manufactured Home Park, which allows private ownership and long-term stays, with an RV Park on the side. Manufactured Home Parks and Mixed-Use Developments are not allowed per code for General Commercial parcels (LUC 65-3.XII). Roberts is creating the illusion that this is just an RV park.

VCD could set a tragic precedent for further high-density development. This application must be denied or reduced to comparability in size with other RV parks in or near the valley (about 100 sites each). Individually-owned cabins should not be allowed.

The village camp glamping concept might be passable in the right setting. Of Roberts’ four other village camps in progress, the Flagstaff VC is most comparable to Durango. Built from the ground up, it’s one-quarter mile off Interstate 40 and scattered businesses are its only neighbors within a mile. His other three VCs revamp older RV parks; no nearby residential neighborhoods.

Village Camp Durango is 200 feet from the South Dalton Ranch neighborhood. This is the wrong place for a huge glamping resort.

All area residents must understand the consequences of this proposal. If the county can twist its “interpretation” of codes to capriciously allow Village Camp Durango, it could do the same in your area.

The Animas Valley Action Coalition is a grassroots organization dedicated to protecting and preserving our scenic valley from over-development, such as Village Camp Durango. The next AVAC meeting is tomorrow, 10 a.m., Durango Library. Roberts’ application is not a done deal. Visit AVACDurango.org.

David Sanderlin, a member of the AVAC coordinating committee, is a 25-year resident of the Animas Valley.