Aspire claims ‘misunderstandings’ as opponents raise issues

The location of the proposed Aspire Tours development as shown on the County Assessor's map.

The Chaffee County Planning Commission heard testimony Tuesday during the continued land-use hearing for the Aspire Tours outfitting, camping and agritourism business proposed for 44 acres along the east bank of the Arkansas River northwest of Salida.

Engineer Lindsay George of Small Hydro Consulting created a water supply plan for the development and spoke on behalf of Aspire Tours. While the Small Hydro website lists Salida as its business location, George introduced herself as a resident of Middlebury, Vermont.

While defending the Aspire application, George referenced the “misunderstanding” conveyed by our Nov. 29 article, which characterizes Aspire’s proposed commercial use of a domestic well as illegal.

George noted that some limited commercial uses are allowed for water from an exempt domestic well, citing Colorado Division of Water Resources Policy 2011-3.

George claimed that Aspire’s proposed commercial uses of the exempt well are allowed under the policy, which is based on Colorado Revised Statute 37-92-602.

The statute limits the uses of exempt wells to “ordinary household purposes, fire protection, the watering of poultry, domestic animals, and livestock on farms and ranches, and the irrigation of not over one acre of home gardens and lawns.”

However, the DWR policy clearly states that the well user must satisfy “the premise that the property’s use is primarily for residential purposes” and demonstrate “that all use of the water is related solely to that residential use.”

Since the property would be used primarily for commercial outfitting, camping, lodging and agri-tourism, the proposed commercial water use from the exempt well would seem not meet these requirements.

The DWR policy reiterates, “The State Engineer’s Office allows incidental commercial activity.” Again, residential use must be primary; the commercial activity must be incidental.

This incidental use is further required to “not cause an increase in the amount of water used,” subject to additional requirements, the first of which is, “The property has a home that is the primary single-family residence for the party engaged in the business.”

Public records indicate Kathrin Troxler, owner of the property and co-owner of Aspire Tours, resides in Wheatridge, and the most recent description of the development plan, dated Nov. 22, indicates that a residential dwelling would not be constructed until the final phase of development – after construction of commercial buildings and infrastructure.

The development plan promises to plant numerous trees to provide visual screening of the commercial buildings, and George stated that the trees would be irrigated using the exempt well.

The DWR policy allows irrigation of “not over one acre of home gardens and lawns,” but according to the Aspire application, the trees would be planted around commercial structures and throughout the 44-acre parcel.

Another condition for commercial use of an exempt domestic well is, “The business has no on-site employees that use water other than the party living in the single-family residence.”

Once again, Aspire’s own statements in its Nov. 22 submittal indicate that this condition would not be met:

  • Page 4 mentions “up to 7 on-site employees.”
  • Pages 5-6 indicate plans to construct a “2-bedroom, 2.5 bath” seasonal employee cabin with an occupancy of up to four people.
  • Page 12 specifically calls for the use of the exempt well to supply water to a 2-bedroom, 4-occupany accessory dwelling unit described in previous submittals as employee housing.

Devin Castendyk was one of several local residents who spoke in opposition to the development. Castendyk is a licensed professional geologist and former professor at Colorado School of Mines.

He documented multiple shortcomings with the Aspire Water Supply Plan, citing specific requirements of the Chaffee County Land Use Code that he said have not been met.

George responded by suggesting that Castendyk’s comments were based on a “misunderstanding” of the water supply plan.

Jerry Raski, Ph.D., mechanical engineering, cited deficiencies in the Aspire traffic study, and Andrea Coen, representing the Chaffee County Heritage Board, noted the negative effect the development would have on the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway.

Of the 70 people attending the meeting via Zoom teleconference, only Troxler and Aspire’s paid consultants spoke in favor of the development.

The hearing will be continued Dec. 7, when planning commissioners will deliberate and issue a ruling on the land-use application. No more public comments will be accepted for this hearing.

Joe Stone