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Montezuma County commissioners encourage Ramble Outdoors to reapply for a proposed campground

Although the company proved in-depth planning, the board pointed out the company shouldn’t apply under a Commercial Planned Unit Development
Ramble Outdoors Inc. plans a campground of mall pop-up campers and tents – with a septic shower house and bath house. Durango Herald file photo

The Montezuma County Board of Commissioners on denied Ramble Outdoors Inc.’s proposed Commercial Planned Unit Development and rezoning application during the Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning.

The proposed location for Ramble Outdoors’ campground will be near the Phil’s World North Trailhead in Dolores at properties TBD Road 31 (9.05 acres) and at 29485 Road M (24.12 acres).

At the meeting, Ramble Outdoors explained that the development will be for dry camping – small pop-up campers and tents – with a septic shower house and bath house.

Ramble Outdoors’ goals include high-quality campgrounds that offer outdoor kitchens, Solo Stove smoke-free campfire rings, space and privacy. It has a campground with 25 sites in Alamosa near Great Sand Dunes, and have plans to open up in Buena Vista and Dolores.

A concern that the commissioners and County Attorney Ian MacLaren had was that there really is no commercial zoning in that area.

Commissioners Jim Candalaria and Kent Lindsay both asked about an escape route. Dieter Erdmann, Ramble Outdoors’ director of land acquisition and management, explained that a second route would lead to the Phil’s World parking lot, which is about 200 yards from the campground

The company proved that they prepared for circumstances such as fire mitigation and traffic and they’re incorporating a safe zone on the property that Sheriff Steve Nowlin previously requested.

The proposal was presented as an RV Planned Unit Development, which must exist under a Commercial PUD.

Community concerns

Derek Padilla, field manager of Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office, expressed worry about social trails, fence line boundaries and how the proponent would maintain the property. He said he wants campers to use the trailheads and not create trails from the campground.

Another resident, who has owned his property for 18 years near Phil’s World, expressed his concern about firewood and how a fire could get out of hand.

Erdmann countered those worries by explaining they have to upgrade fencing to keep livestock away from the property. He also mentioned the company would follow Leave No Trace models to veer away from social trails. The company intends to support Southwest Colorado Cycling Association, possibly lay down logs to prevent campers from connecting trails and work with Tres Rios to reduce impacts from campers.

The company also is in the process of hiring Bruce Short, a forester, to help with fire mitigation by removing overstory and understory trees and shrubs.

On top of that, it would have a 3,000-gallon cistern for firefighting, and each campsite would have a fire extinguisher.

Erdmann also explained that the campground’s design gives exiting traffic more priority than incoming traffic.

Along with traffic, Erdmann mentioned that he met with Montezuma County’s Road and Bridges superintendent, Rob Englehart, about how to establish a traffic mitigation plan.

This will include an installed stop sign, speed limit signs from 45 mph to 35 mph and bicycle crossing signs.

The company intends to rediscuss the infrastructure with the Road and Bridge Department and the Sheriff’s Office after a year of operation.

Land use code discussion

After the commissioners discussed the land use code, such as significant adverse impact and predictable use of property, they agreed that commercial zoning for the campground is not OK and that the development also doesn’t conform with agriculture and residential zoning.

MacLaren mentioned that the PUD has to comply with the code and the biggest concern is that there really is no commercial zoning in that area.

They did consider spot zoning, but Commissioners Gerald Koppenhafer and Lindsay agreed they prefer a general PUD for the campground project.

All three commissioners denied the zoning application for both locations that Ramble Outdoors presented, but encouraged the business to reapply under a General PUD application, since it has a lesser impact.

Planning and Zoning Director, Don Haley, said he needed direction from the commissioners on how to advise applicants.

They agreed to meet in the future and to talk about the land use code.

“We need to get together about the LUC and then have a public hearing about changing the LUC,” Koppenhafer said.