The San Miguel County Planning Commission (CPC), at its Thursday meeting, recommended passage of a pair of new Land Use Code amendments that could pave the way for RV parks on Wright’s Mesa and ensure that lighting codes will keep county skies dark and star-spangled. The recommendations will next go to the Board of County Commissioners for review before final approval.
The Wright’s Mesa Rural Agricultural (WMRA) zone district adjacent to Norwood could become home to no more than three permitted RV parks. Potential park operators would have to obtain a Special Use Permit (SUP) to operate, subject to review by the CPC and the commissioners, with input from other agencies, including the Norwood Water Board. Norwood officials, who view the parks as a potential economic benefit to the town and who supported the proposed amendment, stipulated that occupancy of each park be limited and that no more than three permits be issued. Camping and RV parks are already permitted in the Wright’s Mesa Light Industrial zone district.
Additional camping and RV parks would augment what little designated camping there is in the county, besides primitive sites with limited amenities. The sole campground in the county is at Telluride Town Park where there are no RV hook-ups.
Demian Brooks, who has lived in the Norwood area for 47 years, is a proponent of the new revisions, as it is his vision to establish such a park on his property, not just for recreationists, but also to provide seasonal housing.
“I want nothing more than for this community to thrive,” Brooks said. “I know of no other better economic benefit to this town than an RV park. These are people that come that usually have a lot of money … some of these vehicles they bring in here are worth twice as much as the most expensive house in the town. I say that because when I bring up an RV park, a lot of people think of some giant green trailer that we bring out there, throw the tires on the roof and build a deck off of it. That is absolutely not what this is going to be. I want to keep it very beautiful, very nice and very, very aesthetically pleasing.”
Norwood resident Vince Egan expressed concern about what he called a “grim” water situation in Norwood.
“This is a desperate water environment,” Egan said. “This is grim. This isn't just maybe it's a little bad. This is as bad as people have seen it since the early ’70s. And it's gonna get worse. It's adding more load to an existing shrinking water supply that somehow doesn't meet my arithmetical needs.”
County road and bridge supervisor Ryan Righetti also voiced his concerns about the proposed amendment in a memo to the CPC.
“The addition of recreational vehicle parks … will have negative impacts and increased wear and tear of road surfaces, conflicts with vehicular and pedestrian traffic, conflicts with agricultural and farming use and will cause disturbances on residential streets,” he wrote. “Considering the location of the WMRA in relation to public lands, there is a high level of expectancy that these conflicts will occur.”
Brooks’ neighbor, Bill Hoins, also wrote to voice concerns, which included water usage.
“This is my first winter and spring living in Norwood and I have already experienced water issues,” Hoins wrote. “Two weeks ago my well ran dry from normal household use (I live alone). I share the same aquifer as the proposed project and I am extremely worried about the water use. Just having a well doesn't mean there will be water (especially for double digit RV sites).”
Some CPC members pointed out that, as part of the SUP process, issues such as water would be factored in, as well as access, length of stays and other issues.
“To the point about the short- versus long-term, right now the code specifies no longer than 30 days total within a 120-day period, unless an alternative timeframe is established as part of a special use reviews,” said CPC member Ian Bald. “So I think that covers that, when and if we get a request for something that is other than that 30 days within 120 days, we can then consider it on its merits. And there's no need at this point to try and fix that. We already have the ability to modify if it's deemed appropriate.”
The board approved recommendation of the amendment 5-0.
One of the attractions of living in the rural west — and in San Miguel County — is looking up at night and seeing countless stars, including the river of orbs that comprise the Milky Way. Urban dwellers know no such spectacle. Local advocacy groups Norwood Dark Skies Advocates and West End Dark Sky Alliance worked with county officials to strengthen exterior lighting requirements for construction within the county. With the CPC unanimously recommending the proposed new lighting codes, the process can begin with the International Dark-Sky Association to designate San Miguel River Basin a Dark Sky Reserve, a designation that will include all of San Miguel County and Montrose County west of the Uncompahgre Plateau. Norwood dark sky advocate Robert Grossman has long been an avid supporter of stronger lighting regulations to achieve that end, and was delighted to see the planning board recommend approval to the commissioners.
“I'm just thrilled. That's all I can say,” Grossman said. “We’re just thrilled that this is happening. This is just extraordinary.”