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Chaffee County commissioners voted unanimously to deny the Cool Clear Water major impact review for townhouses Thursday before a full chamber.

The project proposes to use 26.12 acres to create 12 townhouses in groups of two units and one lot for an existing single-family house, creating 13 units, on 9325 CR 160 and 9693 CR 163, adjoining lots owned by Cooper Trust.

There is also a small older home that would be converted into a community center.

Approximately 90 percent of the property, including the floodplain and land extending under half of the river, would be left as open space.

The sketch plan submitted to the county planning office stated, “To preserve open space, as an alternative to the development of 13 single-family residences on 2-acre lots, the applicant proposes all buildings be clustered with townhouses in only limited small construction areas.”

Some of the concerns raised by neighbors during the public hearing included:

• The area is rural and should remain that way.

• The project would decrease surrounding property values.

• The townhouses would be sold for use as short-term rentals, creating a lot more traffic and visitors than if they were just single-family homes.

• The project will have negative impacts on the river corridor.

• With the small building envelopes and steep slope near the river, it would not be possible to meet county standards for putting in well and wastewater treatment systems within designated distances from one another.

• The existing home has had several responses from the county sheriff’s office due to noise complaints.

Commissioner Rusty Granzella said his biggest concern was that if the townhouses were used as short-term rentals, it would totally change the use of the area.

Granzella said that “if this was a flat piece of land and was set up with the clustering of the buildings, I would like to see how it works.”

Commissioner Keith Baker said he thought the basic design conflicts with the land use code’s definition of a rural area and the intent of the comprehensive plan.

“I’m struggling,” Baker said. “It meets the requirements to be built there, but I have to trust my gut, and my gut says it shouldn’t move forward.”

Commissioner Greg Felt said he agreed with Granzella and Baker but thought there was room for the kind of creative development this project was trying to achieve.

“I see a lot of challenges in the implementation of the plan, but in some ways it seems preferable to just putting houses on 2-acre lots,” Felt said. “I too wish our river corridor was clear, but it’s not; there are a lot of houses already close to the river.”

Matt Lamar, president of L4 Construction, representing the Cooper Trust, said afterward, “At this point we are considering all options before us. We are disappointed in the decision of the board of commissioners. We have put time, money and tremendous effort into coming up with a considerate plan that preserves as much open space as possible. Many of our other options are much less appealing in light of rural open space.”

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