Town of Moffat reviews Area 420 large expansion

Saguache County tables decision on Impact Report

 by Lisa Cyriacks

Residents of Moffat and citizens from surrounding Saguache County had the opportunity to submit comments recently on the proposed Area 420 expansion.

The controversial annexation proposal hinges on a “flagpole” annexation requiring the County to surrender County Road 59. According to the Impact Report filed with the County on November 5, the Town of Moffat would allow the County to continue to receive Highway User Tax Funds for that road and the ability to maintain the road. The flagpole annexation would also result in 80 acres contiguous to the Town, not within the Town boundary, but would be surrounded by the Town.

At the November 5 public hearing held at Moffat Town Hall, comments received were against the proposal for a multitude of reasons. The only comments in favor were from the attorney, Karl Kuenhold, representing Area 420.

“Slow down the process” seemed to be the theme. The Town trustees have moved promptly to accept the petition for annexation, even before the Impact Report was ready to be presented to the County and its residents.

One resident questioned the trustees on why the hundreds of lots already platted in Moffat and undeveloped are not being considered and developed prior to taking the steps for annexation. The response was short, those lots are not for sale and the owners cannot be forced to sell.

Peggy Godfrey, a neighboring resident and Rio Grande Water Conservation District director, expressed concerns about encroachment on ranch lands—essentially changing the character and flavor of the area historically.   The current use for the 320 acres is dry-land agriculture. Potch LLC intends to subdivide Area 420 property for commercial entities, “of non-cannabis-related, and legal cannabis-related commercial entities”. Potch LLC, in the petition, agrees to not allow for any hemp cultivation on the property.

Water and dark skies, of course, are also serious concerns. Under the annexation agreement for the first Area 420, Potch LLC re-drilled Town Well #5 as recently as fall of 2019 and pipelines were put in place to service the properties in the Area 420 subdivision. A private well, properly decreed for an output of 2,500gpm, already exists and Potch LLC will assume responsiblity for the costs of extending water, streets, and municipal utilities within the proposed subdivision extension to the north and west of Moffat. One resident present questioned what would happen if that well proved insufficient or was withdrawn by the owner—would the Town then be required to provide water?

It was pointed out the impact of the recent catastrophic fire in the Town of Moffat and how the lack of fire hydrants allowed the fire to spread and take out most of the block. Currently, there is no provision for a fire hydrant system in the existing Area 420.

As one resident pointed out, Moffat is a small community with little to no infrastructure and is being overwhelmed by outside developers. “People with money are the deciding factor.”

Parallels that have been drawn to the mining days of tent cities are not too far off. A quick tour of the existing Area 420 reveals canvas plastic fence liners and not much else. Workers appear to be housed in RVs, sheds, shipping containers, and tents. Nothing is permanent except the fence posts.

The list of concerns goes on and includes: noise from generators that run at night, barking dogs, loss of the views, dust from cleared lots affecting air quality, increased traffic at all hours of the day and night, light pollution, contamination of the water table by waste disposal from essentially industrial greenhouses.

Mayor Patricia Reigel acknowledges that the next steps on the proposed annexation cannot be taken until the Saguache County Commissioners approve the Impact Report. A meeting with the commissioners is scheduled for December 10 at 11am. Copies of the Impact Report are available at the Moffat Town Hall and through Saguache County Land Use. Comments can be submitted in writing at any time prior to the meeting. Negotiations for ongoing maintenance of CR 59 may be part of that discussion.

On November 5, after meeting Mayor Patricia Reigel and Area 420 representatives, the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) tabled the request pending a site visit and to allow time to review the document and the report on the impacts the proposal might have on the county. The BoCC could refer the matter to the planning commission, but has not done so. The County could also request additional information prior to accepting the Impact Report.

At the regular Town meeting on December 3, 6:30pm the Moffat Town Trustees will discuss the terms of the annexation agreement with the attorney and representatives of Area 420. Public comments at the meeting are welcome.