OURAY – As much as the Ouray Board of County Commissioners want to be done with visual impacts, the issue continues to demand more time.
At a packed meeting Tuesday at the courthouse in Ouray, citizens requested, convincingly, that the proposed final public hearing, tentatively set for May 16 and 17, be postponed until July at the earliest.
North county resident Dave Beckhardt cited problems downloading from the county’s web site the mountain of information from Planning Commission meetings on the subject. “Without easy access to these documents online,” he said, “people will just throw up their hands and not be fully informed about how the [proposed] regulations would negatively impact their property values, due to building restrictions.”
Attorneys representing the Chimney Peak Ranch, the Wolf Land Company, the J Bar M Ranch, the Double RL and the Sleeping Indian Ranch (“representing approximately 50 percent of the private land in the county,” according to Ridgway attorney Andy Mueller) also asked for more time.
“Our clients are concerned about the sweeping scope of this legislation,” Mueller said. “The final red-lined documents were only available as of April 23. May 16 is just really too soon.”
Exasperated, but in agreement, Board Chair Mike Fedel said, “We need to get this done.”
Commissioner Don Batchelder, also frustrated, added, “We can’t defer this forever.”
Following an exhaustive discussion on process – how many minutes to give each speaker, how the sign-up sheets would work, whether or not to allow rebuttals – the commissioners agreed to check the calendar for open dates at the 4H Event Center and look to schedule the hearings in “either the second half of July, the second half of August, or the second half of September.”
They agreed to put the hearing date(s) on the their May 14 agenda and also asked for citizen input on the timing of the hearings.
NEW HIGH-COUNTRY ROAD SIGNS FOR CR 361
Bob and Helen Olivier of the Yankee Boy Conservation Association on Tuesday presented the Ouray County Commissioners with a mockup of a new Camp Bird Road brochure and the wording for new summer-season signs to be placed on the narrow, high-country roads leading to Imogene Pass and Yankee Boy Basin.
Reinvigorated mining in the area has resulted in increased truck traffic and commensurate conflicts with tourists and recreational users, including, during the winter months, ice climbers.
County Road and Bridge Supervisor Chris Miller said, “We’re already having problems up there [this season].”
“And it’s going to get worse,” said Chair Mike Fedel.
“Over the Fourth of July week, we have 10,000 trips up there,” Miller reported.
The new signs say, in part: “DO NOT PROCEED UNLESS: You are prepared to BACK UP if necessary to allow traffic to pass . . .”
Commissioner Lynn Padgett thought the language was potentially “unfriendly,” and suggested a mostly visual, graphic sign, that would say simply “Share the Road” above images of “a deer, a hiker, a dirt bike, a Jeep, and a big truck.”
Miller liked the idea, but Padgett’s suggestion was left on the table without further support.
At Miller’s recommendation, the commissioners agreed to four key sign locations: at Thistledown, at the Imogene Y, at the 3 Level below Imogene Pass, and at the CR 26 and CR 361 Y at Camp Bird.
COMMISSIONERS FLUMMOXED BY AMENDMENT 64
Like other counties and municipalities, and indeed like the Colorado General Assembly, Ouray’s county commissioners were unsure Tuesday on what to do about Amendment 64, which legalized possession and use of recreational marijuana.
County Attorney Marti Whitmore introduced the complexity of the issue to the commissioners in a workshop session. “I had hoped to have a definitive memo for you today,” Whitmore began, “but every time I started, something changed as the state level. It’s such a moving target.”
Whitmore presented the commissioners with three options for future action. One, pass an ordinance prohibiting all four types of recreational marijuana businesses: cultivation, value-added manufacturing (brownies, tinctures), testing, and retail facilities. Two, adopt a moratorium on all of the above for a fixed length of time, until the state gets its act together. (In theory, the General Assembly has until October 1 to have licensing regulations in place.) Or three, decide to go ahead and initiate a licensing process on its own.
Under the new state law, the county cannot prohibit private use of recreational pot. (The county already has one approved medical marijuana grow operation.)
The commissioners discussed industrial hemp, which, according to Whitmore, has unclear legal status as a commercial crop under Amendment 64.
Commissioner Lynn Padgett pointed out hemp’s virtues, including its low-water tolerance and its high cash value, and said farmers she has talked to are eager to grow it.
“The big issue for me [with Amendment 64],” Whitmore said, “is how federal and state law will mix. It’s still a Class 1 controlled substance. There are federal laws proposed to change this, but not passed. This still has a long way to go. In my estimation, there will be litigation, ending eventually in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
After spirited back-and-forth between commissioners Padgett and Batchelder on the merits of a moratorium versus an outright ban, and the desire of the county not to become a “test case” (i.e. one of the first counties to design its own taxing and licensing process), the board agreed in principle to a ban that would sunset in October 2014.
“Hallelujah,” sighed Chair Mike Fedel.