Spanish Valley will be “a bedroom community more than anything else,” said Mark Vlasic, principal and president of Landmark Designs, the firm that San Juan County has hired to help develop a plan for the Spanish Valley.
“I think what we’ve heard from the public is [they don’t want] just row after row of hotels,” Vlasic said.
The general vision has been fleshed out in the first draft of the Spanish Valley Area Plan but details can still be changed. Landmark Design is accepting public comment on the plan until Feb. 27. Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those comments will be incorporated into the final plan, which will be evaluated by the San Juan County Planning Commission and San Juan County Commission.
A variety of issues came up at the packed Feb. 13 open house for the draft plan. The event, held in the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency headquarters, was standing-room-only. Most notably, attendees were concerned about water rights. Only 500 acre-feet of San Juan County’s water rights have been approved for use, not nearly enough for the proposed expansion of Spanish Valley, which could add nearly 14,000 new residents to the area over the next 20 to 40 years, as previously reported by The Times-Independent.
Other concerns included the role that Sky Ranch airport will play in the area. The airport is included in the plan, though residents have expressed concern about safety and noise issues associated with having an airport near residential homes.
In response to one audience member’s question, Vlasic noted at the open house that San Juan County “does not have their own ordinances [regarding airports] so they defer to the FAA.”
Vlasic said he would recommend that some kind of ordinance regarding airports be added to the county code.
“That will be our intent is that we would like to move forward and get that included in these ordinances,” Vlasic said.
Another resident asked whether residential areas would allow vacation rentals by owner, a much-debated issue in Grand County.
“As far as this plan, I think it has such far-reaching implications that I don’t think we’re going to address that,” Vlasic said. “That’s probably going to require a special study ... that’s a regional issue I would think ... it’s a big issue and whether they want to have that in these guidelines, in these ordinances, would be a special housing ordinance. We’re not doing a housing ordinance.”
Walter Bird, planning and zoning director for San Juan County, supported the idea that nightly rentals would be addressed at a future date.
“Nightly rentals definitely would be addressed during the ordinance stage. Sky Ranch is part of the plan. It’s addressed in the plan. I’m not sure how that’s going to change going forward … it’s still a draft plan,” Bird told The Times-Independent.
Bird said that Sky Ranch could also come up during the development of ordinances for the area.
“Nightly rentals and definitely the airport, Sky Ranch, will be on the table for sure,” said Bird.