County Commissioners hear appeal of Aspire land-use decision

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

Chaffee County Commissioners heard an appeal of the Jan. 26 Planning Commission decision to approve the Aspire Tours campground and outfitting facility.

Commissioners continued the hearing to April 12, when Aspire representatives will be allowed to respond to comments from members of the public.

Eric Stein of Cortez spoke on behalf of Aspire Tours, reviewing the information in the Aspire application and reporting that an exempt domestic well had been drilled on the 44-acre property three weeks ago. He said the 350-foot-deep well tested at 30 gallons per minutes.

Most of those who spoke during the appeal hearing expressed opposition to the proposed Aspire business operation, but several spoke in favor. Of those, only one, Mark Boyle, ditch foreman for the Williams and Hamm Ditch, which crosses the property, lives nearby.

Tom Wagner, an attorney with Anderson Law Group in Salida, filed the appeal of the Planning Commission decision on behalf of adjacent property owners. During the public hearing, he cited procedural and substantive errors with approval of the Aspire application.

Wagner described a lack of due diligence on the part of Aspire prior to submission of its application; as a result, he said, deficiencies with the application caused more than two years to elapse between submission and approval, which impeded due process for nearby property owners.

Wagner’s filing notes that Kathrin Troxler, owner of the property in question, falsely claimed in her application that the land was used for grazing.

Judy Pianalto, who resides full-time on an adjacent property, said Troxler’s false claim of grazing livestock allowed her to avoid paying $47,000 in annual county property taxes through an agricultural exemption.

Assistant County Attorney Daniel Tom said tax issues are the responsibility of the County Assessor’s Office.

Wagner’s filing documents multiple shortcomings and omissions in the application and points to several instances at which the application, in his legal opinion, should have been denied but was continued, including a late filing following a six-month extension in 2021.

Nearby homeowner and hydrogeologist Devin Castendyk, Ph.D., responded to comments made on behalf of Aspire by water engineer Lindsay George.

Castendyk cited Land Use Code water-supply requirements that were not met prior to the Aspire application receiving approval by the Planning Commission, including not considering data from the nearest well to the property, which has a 40-year history.

Mick Barry, another nearby landowner, described problems that he and other neighbors have experienced since Troxler purchased the Aspire property, including:

  • Use of a private drive without permission.
  • A “domestic issue involving a male employee working for Aspire” who fled from law enforcement and was eventually apprehended in the neighborhood late at night.
  • Two instances in 2020 of owners and employees having large fires during a fire ban.

Anne Parks, who resides near the Aspire property, noted that the proposed usage of the exempt domestic well is in conflict with Colorado Division of Water Resources Water Policy 2011-3.

Jerry Raski, another nearby resident, spoke about problems with County Road 190W and the Aspire traffic study, which he said does not meet the standards spelled out in the Land Use Code.

Raski and others expressed frustration with the perceived inequity of the hearing process, which allowed Aspire representatives to speak without limitations while imposing a three-minute time limit on opposition speakers.

Joe Stone