County board OKs
preliminary plat for 157-lot subdivision
A proposed 157-lot “luxury motorcoach resort subdivision” on U.S. 550 across from Cascade Village is another step closer to reality, with the San Juan County commissioners unanimously approving a development agreement and preliminary Phase 1 Plat on Thursday, April 13, after a lengthy public hearing.
The proposal has drawn criticism from the neighboring Durango Nordic Ski Club, which fears loss of trails, and from Cascade Village residents who worry about its visual impact.
The project will still require final approval from the San Juan Regional Planning Commission and the county commissioners. That could happen in May — if the developer has a final plat ready — allowing construction to start on the $30 million subdivision this summer.
Phase 1 would involve development of 61 lots on 20.2 acres.
Town and County Planning Director Mark Reavis noted the proposed subdivision is in an area that had been previously slated for intense development under the county’s land-use plan.
He said the proposal is in compliance with the county’s 2010 master plan and would be “an appropriate, innovative development for the south-county area.”
He said he’d received some 181 e-mails from Nordic skiers on the matter, along with several correspondences with Cascade Village residents. And he said he has tried to respond to their concerns.
But Gary Leonard, Cascade Village Homeowners Association board member, worried that the process is “going a little fast. We need to slow this down a bit. Once the bull-dozing is done and the buildings done, it’s pretty hard to undo.”
Cascade Village homeowner Lauren Smith said she acquired her home there in January and if she had known the proposed motorcoach park was planned she “would have made a different decision.”
She argued that “people building homes in the million-dollar range should be protected from ‘lower-level usage.’”
And she worried that county officials had already made up their minds.
“Is this just a token hearing?” Smith asked. “If the county says no to the RV park there is chance more homes will be built at (Cascade Village). With a ‘trailer park’ across the road, no one will build.”
And Tom Holden of the Nordic Ski Center said his group would like to secure the loops and trails in the Boyce Lake area, which he pointed out used to belong to the Forest Service.
He said the Nordic skiers have been working with the developer but “we still have significant and real concerns about this project. It threatens the long-term viability of the Nordic Center.”
Nancy Lauro, planner for Russell Planning and Engineering of Durango, challenged the notion of the subdivision being a “trailer park.”
“This is an innovative development. There’s nothing like this in the entire Southwest region,” Lauro said. The lots could include cabins and garages and will be limited to Class A motorcoaches.
“We think it will bring a new type of vacation to San Juan County and Purgatory,” Lauro said.
And Lauro said that most of the Nordic ski trails will not be impacted, and she expressed a willingness to continue to work with the skiers.
The Hearthside brand luxury motorcoach resort will be modeled on a similar facility near Petoskey, Mich.
And developer Brandon Pogue of Pogue Texas Real Estate Co., said a 150-foot setback from the highway, along with terrain features, should largely shield the subdivision from both U.S. 550 and Cascade Village.
“You really will not see this development nearly as much as you see Cascade Village,” Pogue said.
And he said the project will likely exceed property tax revenue generated from Cascade Village.
“Cascade Village touts itself as the largest property taxpayer in the county. I think that’s temporary. We would be a great source of tax revenue at build-out.”
County Commissioner Pete McKay said that “we have been working together on this for more than a year and a half. It may seem like a rush, but it isn’t.”
County Commissioner Scott Fetchenhier said similar developments in the south end of the county have also drawn protest.
“Thirty years ago people were here protesting that Cascade Village was going into one of the most photographed meadows in the country,” Fetchenhier said.
“I was a commissioner when that came in to Jarvis Meadow,” said Commissioner Ernie Kuhlman. “The intent of Cascade Village was to have 480 units. They didn’t build out that much, thank God.”
Kuhlman said the biggest bones of contention seems to be with the Nordic skiing.
“I’m not going to satisfy everybody, but I didn’t intend to,” he said.