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Our View: RV park not popular but a contender

Readers have shared their opinions about the proposed 306-stall luxury RV park in the Animas Valley, particularly after the La Plata County Planning Commission voted 3 to 2 to approve the preliminary plan. Most vehemently oppose this development.

They raise valid concerns about traffic, noise, the impact on wildlife. It’s not compatible in this pastoral rural environment, they say. We don’t want it.

Fair enough. Who wants to live next to or nearby an RV park? The continual hum, the in-and-out of vehicles, the light pollution that cuts visibility of the night sky.

But the argument goes off the rails when people say this proposed RV park does not follow county code and zoning. From what we’ve seen, it actually does meet what’s potentially allowed on this property in the Animas Valley. Still, the public can weigh in more later.

And if the development is built, what would neighbors want? This is the place to leverage.

How about upgraded, safe river access for the public. Some signage, picnic tables, parking, trees.

Scott Roberts, CEO of Roberts Resorts, has said publicly, multiple times, that he’s committed to developing and maintaining the primitive river access site. Let’s hold him to it. And bring up the site a few notches.

As reported in The Durango Herald on Jan. 13, Roberts is seeking approval to develop and reclaim the 36.6-acre, former gravel pit at 876 Trimble Lane (County Road 252).

Stay with us as we review the basics and – we hope – alleviate confusion.

* Zoning. This property is zoned general commercial use. Zone districts identify certain uses by right, which don’t require a land-use permit, and other uses by special permit, which this RV park plan does.

* “Low-intensity, tourist-oriented recreation use.” Notice the quotes. That’s because this is a defined term in La Plata County Code, Chapter 62, Sec. 62–5, Definitions. RV parks are specifically identified as an accepted “low-intensity, tourist-oriented recreation use.” Consider what’s not – a shooting range or an amusement park, a bowling alley or a drive-in theater.

Planners or a decision-making body do not determine whether an RV falls under this kind of use. The legislatively adopted definition is already spelled out on the books.

* Minor land-use permit. Under the general commercial zoning, a special use requires a minor land-use permit, with one hearing with the planning commission to come. (Not county commissioners.) An RV park with 306 stalls sure doesn’t sound minor. Here lies some confusion – this term and its steps are only procedural.

Because of the scale of this plan, it must still meet criteria and standards as if it were a major land-use project. Think engineering details around water, traffic, roads and more to be reviewed. Much more scrutiny is still to come.

* Sketch plan. The sketch plan that Roberts shared with community members is the equivalent of a giant paper napkin that a person would draw on in a bar or restaurant. It’s strictly conceptual without details. A rough draft. It’s also voluntary, so it’s good that the developer offered this plan. Chances are, he expected controversy. If each planning commissioner had voted it down, the developer could still submit an application.

* Application. Nothing has been submitted at the time of this writing.

Roberts has emphasized he will listen to the community’s concerns and adapt appropriately. We’d like to give him a chance to do this. But, again, first he has to apply and present detailed engineering designs. We expect neighbors will continue to have a lot to say about it.

And we’ll keep the conversation going in these pages.