OURAY - A reporter who went to Tuesday’s meeting of the Ouray Board of County Commissioners hoping to hear about a resolution to the nearly year-old waste tire saga would have been frustrated. Again.
The commissioners continued, or put off, once again (this time until July 24) a hearing to determine why county resident Lawrence “Butch” Gunn has not complied with the county’s Notice and Order to remove waste tires in the thousands from his property on County Road 4.
This time though it wasn’t Gunn or his attorney requesting the continuance. It was the new County Attorney, Martha Whitmore, who said, “This is at my request. To allow more discussion on the ongoing settlement talks.” Gunn and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have been negotiating almost since the “tire flood” itself, when an estimated 1,000 tires washed into the Cow Creek and the Uncompahgre River during a thunderstorm on July 26, 2011. Gunn and members of the Maynes Tire family have removed many of the waste tires from the waterways. But an estimated 4,000 tires remain buried, in violation of county and state regulations, on the Gunn property.
A question came up Tuesday about the statute of limitations. Could Gunn just string the county along until local enforcement authority ran out, a year after the event?
Whitmore said, No, “Mr. Gunn will give us affirmation that they will not infringe on the county’s ability to enforce its code.”
Commission Chair Heidi Albritton said, “Our desire is to see these negotiations with CDPHE work out. Ultimately, for us it’s about the positive resolution of the problem.”
CORNERSTONE CLOSURE RAISES ‘FEARS’
Ouray County Attorney Martha Whitmore told this week’s regular meeting of the BOCC about her meeting with Brian Wallin, project manager for Cornerstone, the 6,000-acre, partially developed golf community that straddles Ouray and Montrose counties atop the Uncompahgre Plateau.
Cornerstone announced two weeks ago that it was closing the golf course amid ongoing financial and ownership turmoil. Commissioner Lynn Padgett reported that, “There are a lot of fears, a lot of big emotions up there” among the handful of residents, and among neighboring property owners. What does this [closure] mean, if anything, Padgett asked, “as for our development agreement?”
Whitmore quoted Wallin saying that the current owner, Cobalt Companies of Salt Lake City, “has not filed for bankruptcy, but they have closed the golf course, and they have not paid their water bill.” She reported that the development’s metro district “is still providing water to the residents,” and there is “no intent” to change that. Whitmore said Wallin told her there may be two possible buyers for the huge property. One is a property-owners group. The other was “unnamed.”
Commission Chair Heidi Albritton asked, “Are there items we should be keeping an eye on? Is there action we should be taking?”
Whitmore was reassuring. Should things deteriorate further with Cornerstone, she said, “I haven’t seen anything that puts the burden or responsibility back on the county.”
A FEDERAL LICENSING PROGRAM FOR OHV’S?
Lynn Padgett briefed her fellow Ouray County Commissioners Tuesday about a “really quick” trip she made to Washington, D.C., as part of a delegation with the National Association of Counties. NACo’s primary goal, she said was to encourage passage of Senate Bill 1775, the Public Lands Renewable Energy Act, which would change the way rights-of-way are granted for energy development on public lands, and also includes, Padgett said, a “radical piece – revenue sharing.” Under the proposed bill, which is supported by a surprising, bipartisan consortium of development and conservation interests, including Trout Unlimited, 50 percent of the money from rights-of-way leases – a powerline for example, or a solar farm – would go to state and local governments.
“It’s a win-win,” Padgett said. It’s chances of passing? “If not this session, then maybe the next.”
While in D.C., she also heard from congressional staffers about very early-stage discussions around federal licensing of Off Highway Vehicles. Law enforcement likes the idea, she was told. And the money could be used to help restore resource damage caused by the machines.
This is a controversial subject locally, with different counties enacting different rules for their use. Commissioner Mike Fedel grumbled about the perceived inequities in Ouray, where electric vehicles, golf carts, are allowed on the highway, “but not my gas-powered ATV.
“I don’t see a single upside to this,” he commented.
Commissioner Albritton said, “In San Miguel County they don’t like ATVs. They don’t think children should be anywhere near them. I come from a different culture… .”
Padgett reiterated that the talk she’d heard was just that, talk.
FIRE BAN RESOLUTION NEEDS TO BE SIMPLIFIED
Finally, on Tuesday, commissioners fine-tuned their resolution implementing Stage 2 fire restrictions and the limited fire ban in the unincorporated areas of Ouray County.
Commissioner Albritton commented on the document, which included 10 “Whereas-es” and an equal number of “Therefores,” “Only crazy people will read this. How do we get this out where it will do some good?”
Commissioner Padgett pulled up on her laptop screen an example of what Gunnison County had done. “I say we stick it in bullet form, put it on the county website, print it out on one page and distribute it to campgrounds, businesses… .”
All agreed that was the way to get more than just the “crazy people” to see it.