Garfield County upholds minor subdivision approval at contentious east Missouri Heights site
Garfield County commissioners, on a split 2-1 vote Monday, approved a small land subdivision near the site in Missouri Heights northeast of Carbondale that was rejected as a camp for autistic children during a lengthy public review two years ago.
Commissioners upheld the decision of county Community Development Director Sheryl Bower who last fall approved the Fussner Minor Subdivision, located off Fender Lane and accessed via the private Harmony Lane.
The plan divides the larger 41.3-acre lot into two lots, one 36.2 acres and the other 5.1 acres, to accommodate up to four residential units. That can include two primary residences and two accessory or secondary units, according to the plan put forth by landowner Skyler Fussner
“I’m not a developer,” Fussner said during a continued public hearing Monday to consider what’s called a “call up” under the county zoning code.
“I’m just trying to build a home here and have a family here for a while,” he said, adding that he’s an engineer and has started a firm in the valley, and that he wants the ability to sell off the additional lots to support his own intentions.
As was the case with the much larger Ascendigo Autism Services camp that was proposed and ultimately rejected 2-1 by the county commissioners in the spring of 2021, several neighbors had objected to the Fussner proposal.
Concerns mostly had to do with potential impacts on available water resources, increased risk of wildfire, traffic and maintenance of the primitive, privately held roadway that accesses several homes in the area, Harmony Lane, which also serves as the county line between Garfield and Eagle counties.
County codes allow for certain types of smaller subdivisions and lot splits to be reviewed and approved administratively, rather than going before the county Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).
However, a provision allows applicants and neighboring landowners to call such decisions up to the county commissioners for the final say.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who had voted against even hearing the matter when it came up in November 2022, moved to uphold Bower’s decision. He was joined in support by Commissioner Mike Samson, with Commission Chairman John Martin opposed.
Jankovsky referenced what some have called “Disharmony Lane,” and said the homeowners who use the road need to get together to come up with a routine maintenance plan.
“That’s not a responsibility of the county,” he said. “It falls on the homeowners to do that.”
He and Samson said they’re also confident in the water engineering analysis that determined there is “adequate and reliable” water supply to serve the new residences.
Martin disagreed, and said dry wells have become commonplace in the vicinity during the summer months.
“I disagree with the water engineers on that one; they’re guesing, and mother nature is always right,” he said.
“We’re going to have to stop developing as much as we are, simply because we’re not going to have the natural resources.”
Fussner, represented by land planning consultant Matt Farrar, did offer to limit the building height for the new houses to 15 feet above the ridgeline as viewed from a neighboring property to the south. That represents a 40% reduction from what would normally be allowed by county code, Farrar said when the call-up question initially came before the commissioners on Feb. 20. The hearing was continued to Monday after some 70 pages of new exhibits were presented to the commissioners at that meeting.
Farrar said the new homeowners would comply with the existing road maintenance agreement for Harmony Lane, and would support any efforts to update that agreement.
However, “The Traffic Generation Analysis prepared by (project consultants) demonstrate that Harmony Lane is capable of handling additional traffic from the proposed minor subdivision,” he said.
That includes full buildout of the neighboring Whitecloud Ridge Subdivision, which has several undeveloped lots, Farrar said.
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-384-9160.
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