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Commissioners Table Zoning Amendment for Accessory Dwelling Units

The Fremont County Commissioners will give more consideration to a proposal that would allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) through creation of a countywide overlay zone district.   That was the outcome of a public hearing on the proposed zoning amendment at the Commissioners’ November 24th regular meeting as the Board voted to table the amendment pending more study.   The motion to table was put forth by District One Commissioner Tim Payne after opposition was expressed by the Penrose Water District and the Beaver Park Irrigation Company.   Both voiced concerns that allowing ADUs on parcels of one acre or larger would increase density in the Penrose area and increase demand for water which is in limited supply around Penrose.

Charlotte Norman of the Penrose Water District said the district does not have and will not have enough water to support an increase in density.    She argued that allowing ADUs goes against the master plan for the Penrose area which primarily allows 4 ½ acre parcels.   Norman also said increasing density will overload the formations of shale rock around Penrose and cause septic systems to leak raw sewage into the ditches.

As proposed the zoning amendment would permit a total of two residences on a single parcel that is a minimum of one acre in size.   The ADU could be no larger than 1,000 square feet, have no more than two bedrooms, and only one bathroom.   The ADU’s would share utilities with the primary residence.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Board received a number of letters both in support and opposition to the amendment.   Ray Pittman was among those testifying in favor of ADUs.   He said he and his wife live in a small two bedroom home and under current regulations their kids have no way of moving onto the property to assist them as they age.   Dee Dee Clement of Loaves and Fishes also spoke in support saying the ADU amendment offers a potential solution to the housing crisis currently being experienced in Fremont County.

The Fremont County Planning Commission had recommended that two requirements be removed from the amendment.   One is that the property owner would first have to build the primary residence prior to building the ADU and that the property owner must live on the property.    Commission Chairman Ed Norden said in whatever form the amendment comes back for consideration he still believes those two restrictions should remain among the requirements.

Norden said he was surprised at the number of positive comments regarding the ADU amendment because it seems to offer a common sense approach to the housing problems and simply makes good sense to the community.   In the meantime the Board of Commissioners intends to study the matter further to see if there is some way to exclude specific areas like Penrose while still allowing ADU’s to proceed elsewhere in the unincorporated areas of the county.   The Commissioners may or may not take the issue back to the Planning Commission.    The matter was tabled until the February 9, 2016 board meeting.

In other business at the November 24th meeting the Board of Commissioners:

  • Adopted a resolution updating animal control regulations across Fremont County;
  • Awarded a bid to Patch Construction in the amount of $22,784 for repairs to a concrete cross pan for a low water crossing on County Road 132 northwest of Penrose;
  • Appointed Rich LeDoux to the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee for the balance of a term held by Greg Tabiteau who recently resigned;
  • Reappointed Dennis Wied to be the City of Cañon City’s representative to the Fremont County Planning Commission;
  • Reappointed Maureen Chapman, Deloris Comstock, Jody McKean, and Julie Reeves to the Fremont County Fair Board for additional 3-year terms;
  • Reappointed Mark Masar, Ralph Kunselman, and Tami Ratkovich to the Fremont County Fair’s 4-H Sales Committee;
  • Reappointed Ralph Kunselman, Doug Burford, Fred Smith, Tony Telck, and Darrell Deling to the Fremont County Weed Advisory Committee;
  • Heard a presentation on Hunger and Food Insecurity in Fremont County from Tommy Sakamoto of the Vineyard Church in Cañon City;
  • Heard a presentation on stormwater mitigation concerns from Manny Colon.   Colon spoke on behalf of the Hydraulic Ditch Board saying he hopes the ditch company can work together with Fremont County and the City of Cañon City to address stormwater problems that develop in Cañon City neighborhoods when heavy rains flood into the Hydraulic Ditch and overtop the ditch flooding several residential areas.

Planning Commission to Review Tallahassee Fire District Plan

The Fremont County Planning Commission will consider two issues on the agenda for their December 1st monthly meeting.   The Planning Commission will review a proposed service plan to create a new legally constituted district for fire and rescue services in northwest Fremont County.    The proposed service plan for the Tallahassee Fire and Rescue District was submitted to the county by the Tallahassee Volunteer Fire Department which has served the area both east and west of Highway 9 since 1999.   Since Northwest EMS Ambulance went out of service several years ago the service plan calls for medical services under the new Tallahassee district to include initial patient assessment and stabilization.

After review by the Planning Commission the proposed service plan will go before the Board of County Commissioners.   The Commissioners must approve service plans for any new special districts in the county before the issue is taken to the voters within the proposed boundaries.   Voter approval is then required before a new district is created.   The plan projects that the district could get into operation sometime in 2016.   The plan estimates a population of 2,400 people within the proposed district boundaries.

The other item to be taken up by the Planning Commission is a request by Mike Abbott for approval of a Commercial Development Plan (CDP) to allow a professional office and a liquor store at 1532 Elm Avenue in Lincoln Park.   Abbott’s Waterhole #1 Liquor Store at 1503 Elm Avenue would relocate just down the street to this new location.

The Planning Commission meets at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1st, in Room LL-3 of the Fremont County Administration Building.

Applications Sought for Tourism-Community Promotion Grants

The Fremont County Tourism Council is accepting applications from community organizations for 2016 tourism funding allocations. Community organizations and non-profit groups that conduct special events which attract tourists and visitors to the area are invited to submit applications for funding assistance. The Tourism Council by-laws require that at least five percent of Fremont County lodging tax revenues each year be distributed to community groups to support their special events. The total amount of money to be distributed will be determined by the Tourism Council as part of their 2016 budget adoption in December 2015.

Application forms are available at the Fremont County Commissioners Office at 615 Macon Ave., Room 106, in Cañon City; at the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce office, 403 Royal Gorge Boulevard; or go on-line to the county’s web site at www.fremontco.com.  Click on the funding application link found on the main page.   The application deadline for the 2016 tourism funding allocations is 12 noon, Thursday, December 17th at the County Commissioners Office.  The Tourism Council will not hear oral presentations for funding request. Applicants will be notified no later than January 15th as to the distribution of funds.

Statewide Issues on Conference Agenda for Commissioners

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners and County Administrators will be among 350 attendees anticipated to attend the three day winter conference of Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI) in Colorado Springs November 30th through December 2nd.   Sponsored by the CCI Foundation the conference will focus on topics of statewide and local concern including water resources, transportation funding, and the extension of broadband services to the rural areas of Colorado.

State Demographer Elizabeth Gardner and El Paso County Commissioner and National Association of Counties (NACo) President Sallie Clark are the keynote speakers for the conference.   In addition, educational workshop topics for the conference include historic preservation, cybersecurity threats, erosion control, child protection, and emergency management strategies.

Road and Bridge supervisors from across Colorado will also convene at the CCI Conference to discuss a myriad of topics dealing with road construction and maintenance.

Commissioners Debbie Bell, Ed Norden, and Tim Payne will take part in the conference sessions as well as County Manager George Sugars and Assistant Manager-Finance Officer Sunny Bryant.

CCI is a non-profit, membership association whose purpose is to offer assistance to county commissioners and to encourage counties to work together on common issues.    CCI works to present a united voice to the Colorado General Assembly on issues important to commissioners from both rural and urban counties.

Tourism Council Secures State Tourism Grant

The Colorado Tourism Office has announced that the Fremont County Tourism Council has secured another $25,000 tourism promotion grant under the state’s 2016 Marketing Matching Grant Program.   The state tourism grant dollars have been integral to the Tourism Council’s efforts to market the Royal Gorge Region across Colorado and a multi-state region.

Tourism Council members had expressed concern in recent weeks that their marketing plans in 2016 could be seriously impacted if the matching grant was not received.    After completion of the necessary paperwork the Tourism Council should have the $25,000 in hand by the end of the year which will allow the Council to firm up next year’s marketing efforts.    Those efforts included annual publication of the Royal Gorge Region Visitors Guide as well as extensive web site and social media marketing.

News of the matching grant award comes on the heels of the good news the Tourism Council got earlier this month after Fremont County voters permanently approved the on-going collection of the county’s two percent lodging tax for tourism promotion.   75% of Fremont County voters said “Yes” to the lodging tax.   A ten year sunset on the tax would have ended at the close of 2016.

2016 County Budget Previewed at Public Hearing

Fremont County’s 2016 proposed budget was highlighted at the November 10th meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.   Finance Officer and Assistant County Manager Sunny Bryant presented a power point explaining that even with projected growth next year for both property tax and sales tax revenue, Fremont County will still draw down fund balances for 2016 spending.   With 2015 having been a property reassessment year, Bryant’s report estimates that Fremont County’s share of property taxes will increase by $135,000 to $5.3 million.

After a steep decline in sales tax revenue in the recession year of 2009, Fremont County has seen a gradual but steady recovery in sales tax collections.   Bryant is conservatively estimating sales tax growth for the 2016 budget at three percent with collections targeted at $4.25 million representing estimated sales tax growth next year of $298,000 for the county’s General Fund.

Despite the revenue growth, the budget projects the General Fund spending will still draw down the fund balance by $747,000.   The Sheriff’s Fund will also draw down reserve funds by $2.32 million but that is because of capital projects that will be undertaken in 2016.   The biggest and most costly of those projects is one which Sheriff Beicker listed as a critical need when voters approved his one percent sales tax two years ago.   That is the renovation of the kitchen and laundry area in the Fremont County jail which has been in a sorry state for the past five years.   The challenge the Sheriff faces is also finding a way to prepare meals and handle inmate laundry while those areas are being renovated.   It will also add to the daily cost of inmate care in 2016.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said that during the recession the county relied on the $1 million in PILT money (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) which comes from the federal government to offset the loss of local property taxes because of BLM and Forest Service lands within the county boundaries.   Norden said with revenues finally improving the commissioners have looked at possibly shifting so much reliance on PILT dollars in the General Fund to allow some of that money to be used elsewhere.   Norden said because some money was taken away from the Road and Bridge Fund during the recession to cut spending, the commissioners decided in 2016 to direct $250,000 from the PILT Fund into the Road and Bridge Fund.

Norden said $50,000 in PILT money will also be set aside in a capital replacement fund for bridges.   While $50,000 certainly won’t pay for a bridge he said it’s important that the county start setting aside some money every year to provide matching funds for a future federal bridge grant.

Norden added that the Sheriff’s Fund reflects a commitment by the Board of Commissioners to the Sheriff and the voters to maintain a funding level of $3.9 million from the General Fund to the Sheriff’s Fund.   Norden said that level of commitment has remained the same even after voters approved the one cent Sheriff’s sales tax.   Norden did note that with some of the proceeds from that sales tax the Sheriff has also met his commitment to reimburse the county’s Self-Funded Health Insurance Fund.   That was for money that was transferred to the Sheriff during the recessionary years when cash was needed to cover the Sheriff’s budget shortfalls.   Norden noted that the Self-Funded Insurance Fund directly affects all employees by helping keep health insurance premiums in check.   In 2015 the Sheriff transferred $200,000 to the Self-Funded Insurance Fund and will make a final transfer of $183,000 to Self-Funded Insurance in 2016.

In other business at the November 10th Board meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a proclamation recognizing local veterans on Veterans Day;
  • Adopted a Fremont County Continuity Plan prepared by Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey that outlines how county services would be delivered if there was an emergency that disrupted operations in any of the county buildings;
  • Approved a 50% refund of $950 to the Deer Mountain Fire District for the application fee the District paid for a recent Special Review Use Permit to expand facilities on their property;
  • Re-appointed Larry Brown to the Fremont County Planning Commission for another three year term;
  • Re-appointed Jim Javernick to the Fremont County Board of Zoning Adjustment for another three year term;
  • Appointed Michael Pullen to the Fremont County Board of Zoning Adjustment for a three year term;
  • Approved an “Adopt-a-Park” policy encouraging groups to adopt local parks for maintenance and clean-up of trash;
  • Approved the vacation of a public right of way at the southwest corner of Florence for Gary McWilliams who wants to build a house on the property where a street and alleyway were platted but were never developed;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. November 24th on a proposed amendment to the county’s Zoning Resolution that would allow adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) through an overlay zone district for lots that are a minimum of one acre in size.

Phantom Canyon Road Reconstruction Begins

This site in Phantom Canyon took the brunt of last summer's flash flooding. It is located about a mile above the first tunnel in Phantom Canyon. County Road crews will have to haul hundreds of yards of material just to repair this washout.

Reconstruction of County Road 67 through Phantom Canyon which was heavily damaged in last summer’s flash flooding will get underway Monday (November 16).    Fremont County Department of Transportation Director Tony Adamic said road crews have finished work on their final major paving project south of Florence which will allow them to now focus their efforts on Phantom Canyon.    Damage from the flash flooding was originally estimated at over $600,000 but a recent assessment by an official from the Federal Highway Administration placed the damage estimate at about $350,000.

Adamic said that estimate is contingent upon the material that is needed to fill the washouts being available nearby in Phantom Canyon.   Adamic previously secured permission from the Bureau of Land Management to obtain those materials from public lands that border the county road.   The Federal Highway Administration will pick up at least 75 percent of the reconstruction cost with Fremont County paying the balance.

Although many motorists have been traveling Phantom Canyon at their own risk and maneuvering past the washouts since the flash flood, that will not be the case during reconstruction.   Because the county will have heavy equipment working on the narrow roadway, travel through Phantom Canyon will be prohibited from 6 a.m. Monday mornings until 5 p.m. Thursday evenings over the next several weeks until construction is completed.  Travel through Phantom Canyon on weekends outside of the construction periods will be at your own risk.

7th Annual Recycled Art Show

The 7th Annual Recycled Art Show will run from Friday, November 6th through Saturday, November 21st. The show highlights both amateur and professional artists of all ages and every entry has a minimum of 80% recycled content. The public is invited to see how art and inspiration can bring new life to “trash”.

This year’s show will be hosted by Solvista Health in their new satellite office, 701 S. 9th Street, Canon City. Solvista Health has “recycled” the old Daily Record Building, so this is a great chance to come and see the new home of their business offices!

The show will open with an Artist’s Reception, Friday, November 6th, from 6p-8p. Winners of the show will be announced at 7p, and light refreshments will be served. This is an alcohol-free event. Features of the 7th Annual Show include a tribute to Cara Fisher and her work with Recycled Art.

As always, admission to the show is free, but donations are cheerfully accepted.

An example of reycled art from past years' entries.

Hours for the Art Show after the opening reception are: Fridays, 5:30p-8:30p; Saturdays, 10a-6p; Sundays, 10a-5p. The 2015 Recycled Art show is proudly sponsored by Upper Arkansas Recycling, Howard Disposal and Recycling, UAACOG, Fremont County Recycles, and Solvista Health. For more information, please contact Beth with Upper Arkansas Recycling, 719.275-1675, #119 or beth.lenz@uaacog.com.

Residents Demand Building Code Enforcement

Shoddy construction and abandoned housing projects were among complaints residents voiced to the Board of Commissioners. Pictured here was a cabin put under violation in 2009. After the property owner ignored court orders and fines it took five years before a tax sale certificate could be redeemed for a deed. The new owner agreed to clean up the mess after the county agreed to lift the lien on the property.

Two residents of the Copper Gulch area and a Penrose woman sounded off Tuesday to the Board of County Commissioners demanding more code enforcement to force neighbors to clean up their properties.   John Garrou, who lives in the Copper Gulch area, denounced the fact that some people have illegally set up living quarters on their property in fifth wheel trailers and are preparing them for the winter ahead.    Garrou said “People are living there with no porta-potties or requirements for a source of water.”  Garrou also complained that Fremont County needs a time limit on building permits.

County Building Official Mike Cox noted that a one year limit already exists with property owners allowed to seek another one year extension.   Garrou said Fremont County needs to take a harder line with trashy properties.   He says Teller County is now giving people 60 days to clean up their property “or else”.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the Board of Commissioners and county officials are equally frustrated over dilapidated properties.   Norden said if property owners recognize a problem and are willing to cooperate the county’s Code Enforcement officers can provide dumpsters to help people come into compliance.    But Norden said “Like it or not, these people have personal property rights and if they refuse to clean up, the county’s effort to force a cleanup is not an overnight process.”

Chyriese Marentette said she is frustrated that formal complaints she has filed in the past have not been addressed.   Marentette said she previously submitted five or six complaints on specific properties but to her knowledge none of them have been dealt with.   The Commissioners asked Marentette to meet with Planning Director Matt Koch to review the status of each complaint.   Tina Heffner of Penrose echoed the concerns saying the problems are the same in Penrose where one person lives in a camp trailer and has 11 horses on his property.  Heffner said the man uses a porta-potty and after documented complaints for over a year she has no confidence anything will be done.

The Board of Commissioners approved a Special Review Use Permit for the Deer Mountain Fire Protection District as the district prepares to expand their facilities.   Deer Mountain Fire District Board Member Karen McKee said the primary need is for a new building to house fire trucks.   She said the district currently parks seven vehicles outdoors and during freezing weather those vehicles have to be taken out of service.   Along with a new building, a new heli-pad has been built across the road.

The Board of Commissioners approved the annual agreement with the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments (UAACOG) to participate in the regional recycling program.   Commission Chairman Ed Norden used the occasion to announce that because of increased revenues from solid waste collection fees the Commissioners have earmarked $7,500 in the county’s 2016 budget to assist with electronic recycling days.   Norden said the $7,500 should help in reducing the amount UAACOG will have to charge to recycle computer equipment and television sets.   He said in turn perhaps people will quit using TV sets for target practice or dump them in roadside ditches.

In other business at the October 27th meeting the Commissioners:

  • Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Florence to exchange the value of two parcels of property deeded to Florence in exchange for a reduced price for a pair of water taps at Pathfinder Regional Park;
  • Approved a proclamation declaring November 20th as National Adoption Day in Fremont County.   On that day formal adoptions will be finalized in Fremont County court for eight children;
  • Approved a six month extension for a Special Review Use Permit for Play Dirty ATV Tours to come into compliance for a new site operation west of Texas Creek;
  • Approved a transfer of ownership of name change for a Conditional Use Permit for the Cooper gravel pit along Iron Mountain Road to Rocky Mountain Excavating;
  • Announced that a public hearing on Fremont County’s 2016 proposed budget will be conducted at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, November 10th.

Planning Commission to again discuss Accessory Dwelling Unit Zoning

The Fremont County Planning Commission will again take up discussion on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) at their monthly meeting on November 4th.   The proposed 9th Amendment to the Fremont County Zoning Resolution allowing overlay zones for ADU’s was tabled by the Commission at their October 6th meeting.   The proposal stirred some controversy among Commission members which prompted the decision to table the item for further consideration.

The original amendment would have required a minimum of a half acre of property within ADU overlay zones.   Since then the Board of County Commissioners conducted a workshop and is now proposing a minimum lot size of one acre for ADU’s.   An ADU overlay zone would permit a total of two residences on a single parcel of property as long as the parcel is at least one acre in size or larger.   The second dwelling would be considered accessory to the primary residence.  Accessory Dwelling Units would not be allowed to be sold separately or subdivided from the parcel or primary residence.   The ADU’s could be supported by utilities that serve the primary residence.

If an overlay zone is proposed in a particular neighborhood or a portion of rural Fremont County it would still have to undergo separate review by the Planning Commission and a public hearing before the Board of Commissioners.

Approval of the amendment would not create an overlay zone across the entire county.   The Accessory Dwelling Units would be allowed only in those specific areas where the overlay zones are approved.

The ADU overlay zone is the only item of business on the agenda for the Planning Commission.   The Commission meets at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4th, in the Commissioners Board Room on the lower level of the Fremont County Administration Building.

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