Presenters include state and federal officials; Ouray and Montrose County Commissioners; Colorado Representative Kathleen Curry of Gunnison; landowners; representatives of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project; the Colorado Gas and Oil Conservation commission; the Division of Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management.
The BLM's Colorado office issued a June 27 press release announcing that 92 parcels of federal land - nearly 84,000 acres - would be offered for competitive bid. Five parcels up for auction (nearly 1,500 acres) are in Ouray County; another three, partially in Montrose County, total just over 2,800 acres. All of these parcels contain at least some private land.
The Ouray County Planning Commission held a July 6 workshop to begin reviewing proposed regulations on oil, gas and mineral development in Ouray County. The county has been looking at a similar draft from La Plata County, which has drilling operations on its lands already.
Their stated intent: To "facilitate development of oil and gas resources within the unincorporated area of Ouray County, while mitigating potential land use conflicts between such development and existing -- as well as planned --land use."
The 22-page draft is being proofed by the Ouray Planning and Zoning Commission; the next meeting is scheduled for July 20, followed by joint public hearing on August 8.
Land Use Up
A report from Ouray County Planner Greg Moberg to newly appointed County Commissioner Kristi Westfall revealed high land use activity levels for the year to date. "Open cases for general planning are up at least 100 percent," Moberg reported. These include 14 open cases, 10 regular Planned Unit Developments, and four limited PUDs in various stages of progress.
"There are at least a half-dozen code amendments in development, including oil and gas and open lands," said Moberg.
With 60 building permits (compared to 47 a year ago): "There's lots going on," he observed. "Land prices are beginning to get silly. Development is generally not done by professional developers, so there's a lot of hand-holding, which is taking up a lot of staff time," added Moberg.
Liability Concerns End Ark Relocation
The Rocky Mountain Ark Wildlife Center will not move its operation to a site north of Ridgway State Park, according to its founder and director Lissa Margetts. The RMA had obtained a special use permit on June 13 from the Ouray Board of County Commissioners, but concerns about personal risk and liability that Margetts and her husband Steve would have to assume resulted in the decision to not go ahead; the Ark will close its doors in September, 2006. In a press release this week, Margetts noted: "Not only would we be using our personal house as collateral, but as I am the permit holder of all the federal and state licenses for the Ark, if anything were to go wrong at the new facility, I would personally be responsible." Margetts intends to keep a few of the animals, including a cougar and some otters already under her care with active permits, but the other animals will eventually be placed in the care of other entities, including the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which will take rehabilitation calls and can be reached at 252-6000.
No Marina Services at Ridgway State Park
Summer 2005 concession services at the Ridgway State Park for slip rentals, mooring buoys, boat rentals, gasoline, bait, fishing supplies, convenience store and a laundromat will not be provided due to a contract cancellation last March, according to Jeff Riddle, park manager. Skyway Marina, Inc., owned by satellite television mogul Charlie Ergen (reportedly the 34th richest man in the world in 2004), walked away from a 14-year concession agreement dating back to 1991 with the Colorado State Parks, apparently due to poor revenues.
Since Skyway (dba Ridgway Marina, Inc.) didn't exercise its option to sell the concessions to another buyer by a May 29 deadline, the rights, dock and marina will be sold after a year-long process of appraisal and bid-taking. The marina remains closed but the state park will offer firewood for sale, according to Riddle. Opined Ridgway Sun editor David Mullings on July 6: "Over the summer, a lot of gallons of gas are going to get burned in trucks having to launch and retrieve craft that in past summers have been able to moor on marina buoys...if anybody could broker a deal to get a small operation in gear over a couple of months, it should be a man who heads a $13 billion satellite company."
Off-Highway Directional Signs Considered
The Town of Ridgway is working with retail business owners in its Historic District to agree on specific standards for directional signs.
Since the Ridgway sign code allows town-owned directional signs, council has been endeavoring to standardize sign use in town. Local business owners and town officials would like to enhance awareness of retail district businesses, but in a manner that does not violate Colorado Department of Transportation regulations or deface the landscape. Highway 62, which runs through Ridgway, is considered a Scenic Byway, and Colorado Department of Transportation regulations prohibit any signs from off-highway businesses being placed along the highway. This leaves many retailers frustrated by not being able to direct more tourist traffic to Clinton Street, at the core of the Historic District.
This spring, "sandwich" signs surfaced on the corner of Lena and Colorado State Hwy. 62. Business owners complained, and the town stepped in to mediate. Thus far, a Ridgway Town Council workshop and public hearing have addressed the issue. Details will be finalized at the July 19 meeting, at 6 p.m. On the agenda: To consider codifying a sign format using a "unified" color that all business owners will have to abide by; a possible size of four inches in width and one yard in length; and mounts on town-owned signposts and/or town-owned property. The corner of Lena and Clinton, near the post office, is a favored location, with the name of a given business and a directional arrow tastefully applied. At the corner of Lena and Hwy. 62, a generic "shops-and-restaurants" sign (replacing existing individual business signs) is also being considered.
Sign Ban Challenged