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Commissioners review Eye of Heart wildlife refuge

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Gilpin County Business

By Staci McBrayer

The Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners met on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 at the Gilpin County Courthouse. Commissioner and Board Chair Gail Watson, Commissioner Buddy Schmalz and Commissioner Connie McLain were in attendance along with County Manager Roger Baker and County Attorney Brad Benning.

Retirement Plan Updates

Jake Kuijper, Executive Director of the Colorado County Officials & Employees Retirement Association (CCOERA), presented the Commissioners with an update on the county employees’ 401(a) and 457 Retirement Plans. Kuijper discussed the plans’ accumulation, preservation, and distribution details. Kuijper noted the funds are performing well.

Variance Request

Applicant Cory J. Wright requested and received a variance to construct a second story addition eleven feet from the north property line on his property at 187 Forest Hill Road. That is a nineteen-foot reduction from the County’s zoning code requiring thirty feet. Additionally, the structure would be twenty-five feet high versus the current seventeen feet.

The dwelling was constructed in 1968 and the garage in 1978 (prior to the County’s current zoning setbacks.) The previous owner of the property was sited in 2010 for construction without a permit. In his letter to the County Board of Adjustment, Wright explained that when he purchased the property, the structures consisted of a house trailer, a “number of eccentric additions built over the years, and an attached garage.” After purchase, he became aware of structural deficiencies that he has since demolished portions of the building.

Mike Vincent, 253 Old Dory Hill Road, spoke to the Commissioners about the variance and said he was 100% in favor of it. He explained he lives down the street, and that the improvements he has seen Wright make so far have made a huge difference in the neighborhood.

Boundary Line Adjustment

Commissioners approved a Boundary Line Adjustment (BLA) for applicants Paul and Charlotte Reichard of 628 Lower Moon Gulch. The Reichards sought to move the property boundary between three parcels (1.74 acres, 3.27 acres, and 0.78 acres) to create two new parcels. The 0.78-acre parcel had been created illegally as part of the small tract act and was then subdivided without County approval. Approval of the BLA would resolve the illegal parcel issue.

Commissioners approved the BLA. The new parcels will be Parcel 1 consisting of 3.71 acres and Parcel 2 consisting of 2.39 acres.

Boundary Line Elimination

John R. Brackett and Michelle Naranjo-Brackett received a Boundary Line Elimination (BLE) that joined Brickey Highlands #2 Lot 82 (6.69 acres) with Lot 86 (2.00 acres.) The resulting parcel of 8.69 acres will be identified as Lot 82A. To date, the County has approved 487 BLEs to date.

Amending the Employee Handbook

Commissioners approved several proposed updates to the Employee Handbooks. Those changes include:

–Termination appeals to be heard by County Commissioners instead of County Manager.

–The addition of the phrase “partner in a civil union” was added to the Nepotism section in order to comply with the Colorado Civil Union Act and Anti-Discrimination Act.

–Added a “Data Security Statement” to cover the majority of circumstances in which sensitive data is a risk.

–E-cigarette ban – bans the use of E-cigarettes in county facilities, including vehicles, by employees at all times with the exception of e-cigarette use by inmates in jail cells.

–Adds “any duties needed to stabilize an emergency situation” to county job descriptions and adds “may be asked to serve as an emergency worker during an emergency, and to assist in the stabilization and recovery of an emergency” to the handbook.

–Deletes the juror service certificate requirement since jurors no longer receive a certificate in all instances.

–Addition of a “Family Care Act Leave” section and a “Religious Leave” section that brings the county into compliance with Colorado Statute and Federal Law.

Request to Fill a Position – Senior Services Aid

The Commissioners approved a request from Human Services to fill a senior services aid position. The position is a part-time, partial benefits position with a pay rate of $10.25-13.85 per hour. Money was previously allocated in the County budget for the position.

Treasurer’s Monthly Report

County Treasurer Alynn Huffman gave her monthly report dated August of 2014. 96.54% of County Taxes have been collected as compared to 98.48% collected at the same time last year.

Huffman noted that both gaming tax checks from the State of Colorado had been received ($8,373,640 and $916,495) and had been distributed to County accounts.

Special Use Permit

A public Hearing was held for a special use request for the Eye of the Heart Wildlife Refuge. County zoning allows for such use only through the special use request process.

Eye of the Heart Wildlife Refuge is a privately owned, non-profit entity run by applicant Laurel Higgins. Higgins addressed the Board with the intention of seeking a special use permit to operate a conservation/ recreation area and educational facility on 13.2 acres at 1744 Lump Gulch Road. She explained that the property has a rich mining history. The Higgins family has dedicated much time, effort and resources to clean the property up and as well as to ensuring the restoration of mining equipment on the property.

The parcel is protected by a conservation easement granted to Colorado Open Lands. The area is presently zoned as resource residential and is situated between the Skydale subdivision, US Forest Service Property, residential property, and Snowline Lake. Community Development Director Tony Petersen’s memorandum to the Commissioners states that “although the subject site is termed a wildlife refuge by its owner, its value as such is limited due to its relatively small size (13.2 acres), its proximity to sensitive residential development (Skydale & Snowline subdivisions), and its high degree of disturbance.”

Petersen’s memorandum also recognizes potential on-site impacts such as overuse, traffic, noise, and trespass into neighboring residential properties. This sentiment was well represented by the opposition present during the public comment section of the hearing. Opponents expressed being highly disturbed by the loud music, traffic, trash, and trespassing created during the sanctuary’s fundraising music events in the past. Additionally, concerns were voiced over allowing camping, smoking and fires on the property.

Seven individuals spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing. Of those seven, six residents/ property owners spoke against the measure. Only one person, Eye of the Heart Wildlife Board Chairman Gina Weaver, spoke in favor of the Special Use Permit. The County Planning Commissioner had also received thirty letters in opposition of the Permit and eleven in support of it (though not all opponents or supporters were county residents or land owners in the County.)

After hearing from both Eye of the Heart proponents and opponents, the Commissioners brought fourth their own concerns about granting the request. Higgins had constructed a dam on the property, and it was unclear if that dam is in compliance with State or Federal regulations. It was also unclear what the Forest Service’s stance is on the proposed refuge. Commissioners also wanted to gain approval from other regulatory agencies, such as the State Water Board, and State Parks and Wildlife. Commissioners discussed operation hours, signage, parking, sanitation, and the prohibition of special/ private events.

Commissioners Schmalz said, “We are looking at putting a commercial business in a residential area. Is that acceptable in this neighborhood? It is not a ‘use by right,’ it is a ‘special use.’ I agree that the amount of work done is spectacular. But now we have entered into a phase where money could be made from it – but at whose expense?”

In the end, Commissioners motioned to continue the review hearing to Nov. 4th at 10:00 a.m. The move was made with the intentions of allowing County staff to compile more comprehensive plan requirements and allow time for Higgins to contact State and Federal agencies in order to meet the Commissioners requests.

Liquor License Renewal

Commissioners approved an annual renewal of the liquor license for the Stage Stop at 60 Main Street, Rollinsville. The applicant was owner Heather Hatwan of Heather Hatwan Productions, LLC.

County Manager’s Report

County Manager Roger Baker noted in his report to the Commissioners that the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will host a Prescription Drug Take Back Event on September 27th at the Trash Transfer Site from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free and anonymous. Only pills and patches can be accepted (no liquids, needles, or sharps.)

Baker also noted that George Clark has submitted his letter of resignation as representative on the Jefferson Center for Mental Health Board of Directors effective December 31, 2014. Commissioners discussed plans to advertise for and recruit a new representative. The position serves both Gilpin and Clear Creek Counties on the Mental Health Board.

Attorney’s Report

Attorney Brad Benning updated Commissioners on the litigation against the State Treasurer, Cripple Creek, Teller County, and Central City challenging the formula used for allocating the disbursement of limited gaming funds. Benning said the case is in the briefing phase and that the County and Cripple Creek had filed their responses. The State and other parties have asked for extensions. Denver District Court Judge Kenneth M. Laff is presiding over the case.

Notice of Public Meetings

–Coffee with Commissioners, Thursday, September 25th, 6:30 p.m., Community Center

–DOLA Gaming Impact Committee hearings, October 1-2, Old Courthouse.

Next Meeting

The next scheduled meeting for the Commissioners is on October 7th, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. on the 2nd floor of the Gilpin County Courthouse, 203 Eureka Street, Central City, Colorado.

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