County to rezone 300 parcels in Snake River, Ten Mile basins |

County to rezone 300 parcels in Snake River, Ten Mile basins

BOB BERWYNsummit daily newsSummit County CO, Colorado

What’s your take?Should Summit County rezone privately owned mining claims in the Snake River and Ten Mile basins to restrict house sizes and encourage the transfer of density? Click on the comment link at the top of the story and let us know.SUMMIT COUNTY – Is one man’s open space another man’s taking?That’s the way a county rezoning plan looks to Alf Tieze, who says the proposal to reclassify about 300 old mining claims into a backcountry zone unfairly targets longtime local property owners.”We are all very concerned that for the last 40 or 50 years, we’ve been faithfully paying our property taxes,” Tieze said. “Now (the county) is talking about cutting the value of our properties by 75 percent … That is called a taking,” Tieze said.At issue is a proposal to rezone about 300 privately owned mining claims in the Snake River and Ten Mile basins. The backcountry zoning changes the rules for building on mining claims, reducing setbacks from 50 feet to 25 feet. It allows property owners to access their lots via existing roads, even if they aren’t up to county standards.Structure size is also limited in the backcountry zone, ranging from 900 square feet on a typical five-acre lot, up to 2,400 square feet on a 35-acre parcel, as well accessory structures like garages and sheds up to 500 square feet.The move to rezone the private properties is in keeping with county and basin master plans, which aim to “ensure that growth occurs in appropriate locations and that our rural mountain character is maintained.” The basic idea is to limit backcountry trophy homes and steer development toward areas deemed more suitable for development, while still leaving room for development of smaller cabins on backcountry parcels.The backcountry zoning works in tandem with a transfer of development rights (TDR) mechanism that enables owners of backcountry parcels to sell development rights at about $40,000 per unit, explained county planning director Jim Curnutte. That gives owners another option, he explained.Similar zoning has been in place in the Upper Blue Basin for about six years, where about 60 development rights have been sold out of the backcountry to a TDR bank, Curnutte said. “It’s worked so well in the Upper Blue to maintain the desired backcountry feel,” Curnutte said. The number of requests for minimum lot size variances dropped, and there have only been two building permits issued in the backcountry zone, both for smaller sized homes, he said.But Tieze said the old-timers who have held on to their mining claims for many years are now losing some of their property rights. Instead of being able to build a home on the typical five-acre lot, the development potential of the smaller parcels has been chopped.”Where does that density go? To the wealthy enclaves down by the golf course? Why are we supposed to provide the greenbelt?” Tieze asked. “I’m not against what they are trying to do, but not at the expense of one group.” “All of a sudden, the rules have changed again. Somehow, we’re getting in the position where everything is dictated,” he added.Curnutte said that, based on the success of the backcountry zoning and TDR program in the Upper Blue, citizens in the Ten Mile and Snake River basins asked for a similar mechanism as they updated their master plans.”We’ve notified every single property owner,” Curnutte said, acknowledging Tieze’s concerns. He said several other people have raised questions about the plan, but that the general reaction has been positive.”I think overall there is very much support for carrying out the master plan goals,” Curnutte said.Zoning HistoryThe backcountry mining claims in Summit County date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Summit County adopted zoning regulations in 1969, assigning agricultural zoning (A-1) to the parcels. The A-1 district allows one single-family residence per 20 acres, as well as other uses including stables, barns and even fish hatcheries. According to a county staff report, the A-1 zoning was applied because it was the most rural category available at the time. Backcountry house sizesTwo acres or less: 750 square feetEach additional acre: +50 square feetTotal maximum living area allowed (35 acres required): 2,400 square feetAccessory structures (garages, storage sheds): 500 square feet.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at

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