Planning Commission to Consider Adoption of Master Plan Update

A multi-year effort by members of the Fremont County Planning Commission to update the Fremont County Master Plan could reach a conclusion this week.   The Planning Commission will consider formal adoption of the updated Fremont County Master Plan at their July 7th monthly meeting.    The process to review the Master Plan dates back more than five years and got started when Dean Sandoval still chaired the Commission.   It was a process that was done in-house through a series of Planning Commission workshops as opposed to hiring the services of an outside consultant.    The rewrite was performed by County Planner Marshall Butler with the Planning Commission inviting public comment on the project along the way.   A draft copy of the Master Plan that the Commission will consider for adoption can be reviewed on the county’s web site at www.fremontco.com, and then by searching the menu under the Planning and Zoning Department.

The Planning Commission on Tuesday will also consider a Commercial Development Plan for the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Center, a new tourist attraction proposed at the top of eight mile hill west of Cañon City.   Zach Reynolds of Reynolds Construction is proposing the dinosaur attraction to be located on 36 acres on the north side of US Highway 50, 1,000 feet east of the junction of Highway 50 and County Road 3A.  The development plan calls for dinosaur exhibits, climbing attractions, and retail sales.

The only other agenda item for the Planning Commission is consideration of a zone change for Jamie Kelly and Craig Scheer for a parcel of property on the east side of Copper Gulch Road in the Colorado Acres subdivision.   Kelly and Scheer are seeking a zone change from Business Zone District to Agricultural Estates Zoning in order to allow for future construction of a residence.

The Planning Commission meets at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7th, in the Commissioners’ meeting room on the lower level of the Fremont County Administration Building.

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County Road Crews Busy with Paving & Chip Seal Work

Penrose residents who frequently travel 3rd Street west of Highway 115 are enjoying 1.7 miles of new pavement. The road deteriorated greatly over the years due to a lot of truck traffic.

Road crews with the Fremont County Department of Transportation have initiated their busy summer schedule of paving and chip seal projects.    Crews have spent the last two weeks applying new asphalt pavement to 3rd Street in Penrose.   3 inches of new asphalt was applied to 1.7 miles of 3rd Street.     The project extended west from the Brush Hollow Reservoir turnoff on Colorado Highway 115.

With that project completed Fremont County road crews will now begin chip and seal road projects.  Chip seal work will be performed on County Road 12 north from Cotopaxi the week of July 6th.   During the week of July 13th crews will be chip sealing a portion of County Road 28 in the Copper Gulch area.   Ash Street south of Cañon City will see some chip seal work during the week of July 20th.

Later this summer crews will also be laying down new asphalt on Elm Avenue between 9th Street and County Road 143 which is the Oak Creek Grade Road.      The county was hoping to pave Oak Creek Grade itself south from that intersection, but that project will be delayed until next year.

A portion of County Road 1A south of Cotopaxi gets some asphalt along portions of the road's shoulder which has crumbled away over the years.

The other major paving work this summer is Phase 2 of the regional road project south of Florence.   Fremont County secured another $351,000 in Energy and Mineral Impact grant funds from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to deal with impacts from oil field truck traffic.   After paving was completed a year ago in the Coal Creek area, Phase 2 work this summer will include a 3-inch asphalt overlay of one mile of North and South Frazier Avenue on the west side of Florence.   Phase 2 also includes 3 inches of new asphalt over a distance of 1.85 miles of County and Coal Creek Roads 13, 13A, and 84A.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell notes the regional road project is to be completed in phases over five years through 2018 improving over 21 ½ miles of roads in the Florence, Coal Creek, Williamsburg, and Rockvale areas relying in large part on energy impact grants.  All of the communities and Fremont County also provide matching dollars, equipment, and manpower.

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Commissioners Hear Update on Dispatch Center

Fremont County Undersheriff Ty Martin explains high tech equipment and radios housed in a special room of the new dispatch center on the 4th floor of the county's Judicial Center.

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners spent a little more than 20 minutes disposing of business from a very brief agenda for their regular meeting on June 23rd.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden reported that the new Combined Regional Dispatch Center should be fully operational by mid to late July as both Cañon City and Florence Police Dispatch Centers prepare to shut down and shift all operations to the new, modern center on the 4th floor of the Fremont County Judicial Center.

Norden said there were some coordination issues with vendors in relation to the technical equipment for the connectivity of the E 9-1-1 system in the new center.   Florence dispatchers were tentatively scheduled to transition to the new center during the early morning hours of June 16th but when it became apparent that there were lingering technical issues that plan was quickly abandoned.    Norden said the E 9-1-1 Board of Directors have been assured that all technical problems will be resolved for a new target date of July 7th for Florence dispatchers to make the move.   Cañon City dispatchers will then work towards completing their training so they can transition into the new dispatch center by late July.

In the only business for the commissioners, the board approved an Optional Premise – Modification request for the hotel-restaurant liquor license for the Quality Inn & Suites at the east edge of Cañon City.  Manager Boone Berry said he hopes to expand alcohol service to the hotel’s lobby and outdoor pool deck areas in order to better cater to customers’ desires.

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Near Record River Crest Floods Rainbow Park

High runoff on the Arkansas River east of Florence has sent flood water across the county road in several spots near the Rainbow Park Dairy.

Residents in Rainbow Park along County Road 119 east of Florence are no strangers to flood waters from the Arkansas River, but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with near record levels of flooding.  Flood waters from the Arkansas have covered hay fields and corrals around the Rainbow Park Dairy and several homeowners report their crawl spaces are filling with water from rising groundwater tables.

Minor flooding occurs on the Arkansas in the Cañon City and Florence areas when the river gauge reaches a ten foot level.   The National Weather Service in Pueblo reports the peak on the runoff through Cañon City was reached last Saturday afternoon at a level of 10.14 feet.   According to historical records, that river height would rank it second on the list of historical river crests exceeded only by a level of 10.9 feet on June 18, 1995.

Tom & Linda Miller managed to get their hay cut in Rainbow Park in between rain storms only to have flood waters from the Arkansas River ruin this first cutting of hay.

There is very little that homeowners and farmers can do but to wait for the water to recede.   The National Weather Service is predicting a very slow drop in river levels over the next five days.   But the river is expected to drop by only about six inches by Friday afternoon.

Residents of the area are particularly watching the skies for any threat of thunderstorms.   Additional heavy rain dumping into the river would only add to the flooding headaches.

There is a foot of water in the crawl space of this Rainbow Park residence east of Florence which sits on the banks of the flooding Arkansas River. It's estimated the river was running at 5,600 cubic feet per second when this picture was taken the afternoon of June 16th.

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BLM Schedules Open Houses for Resource Advisory Plans

The Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office is seeking public input to help guide its Resource Management Plan Revision for 668,000 acres of BLM lands along Colorado’s Front Range. The revision will combine the 1996 Royal Gorge Resource Management Plan and the 1986 Northeast Resource Management Plan, to create the new Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan. The revision will also include a Master Leasing Plan for South Park.

“It’s very important to hear from the public before we begin drafting the plan revision,” said BLM Royal Gorge Field Manager Keith Berger. “This scoping period gives the public a great opportunity to become involved early in the process. We want to address public concerns in the revision from the outset, and we want to ensure we have the most complete information.”

The BLM will accept public scoping comments through July 31, 2015. The scoping period gives the public the opportunity to identify issues to be addressed in the plan revision. The BLM will closely consider public comments in drafting a range of management alternatives for the planning area.

The BLM has scheduled seven public scoping meetings across Colorado this month including meetings in  Cañon City and Salida.   The public is encouraged to stop by one of the open house meetings anytime between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to talk to BLM specialists, learn more about the revision and provide comments. An informal presentation will be given at 6:30 p.m. each night.    Open house meetings in the region include will be held in:

•         June 23 – Salida, Salida High School, 26 Jones Ave

•         June 24 – Fairplay, Fairplay Community Center, 880 Bogue St (fairgrounds)

•         June 29 – Cañon City, The Abbey, Benedict Rm, 2951 E Highway 50

Attendance at these open houses is not required to submit scoping comments to the BLM.  For further information about this plan revision and how to provide scoping comments, visit http://on.doi.gov/1HVULcA, or contact John Smeins, RMP Project Manager, at (719) 269-8581.

Scoping comments may be mailed to BLM ECRMP, 3028 E. Main Street, Cañon City, CO 81212; faxed to 719-269-8599; or e-mailed to ECRMP.Comments@blm.gov. Scoping comments will be most helpful if they are specific and received by BLM before July 31, 2015.

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Cara Fisher’s Name Added to Plaque of Outstanding Civic Leaders

Mary Ann Donovan, (center) daughter of the late Cara Fisher, is pictured after placing the brass plate bearing the name of Cara Fisher on the Outstanding Civic Leaders plaque. The plaque is located just inside the south entrance of the Fremont County Administration Building. Pictured with Donovan are Mary Chamberlain (left) and Carol McNew (right) both of the Fremont County Heritage Commission.

The name of local historian and artist Cara Fisher, who died in February at the age of 90, had her name added Tuesday to the plaque honoring Fremont County’s Outstanding Civic Leaders.   The Fremont County Board of Commissioners took that formal action to recognize Fisher’s contributions during her decades of work as a local historian and preservationist.    The honor is bestowed posthumously with Fisher’s name being nominated by the Friends of the Royal Gorge Museum and History Center.

In her letter of nomination Geri Collette said Fisher laid a solid foundation for preserving our unique local history, the story of its people, its buildings, and our future.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said Fisher had a lot to teach people because of her amazing life lessons.   Mary Chamberlain and Carol McNew of the Fremont County Heritage Commission also praised Fisher’s contributions.   Fisher’s name is the sixth name to be added to the plaque of Outstanding Leaders since it was created in 2002.    It’s been six years since names were added to the plaque.   The last two names were former State Senator Harold McCormick and Barbara Lamborn who was very active in the Fremont Cattlewomen and Farm Bureau.

The Commissioners on Tuesday also approved a proclamation declaring June 15th as Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Fremont County.   Janelle Miller of the Fremont County Department of Human Services Adult Protection Division said her staff handles 25 to 30 reports every month of elder abuse.   Miller said 75% of those cases typically involved exploitation of the elderly.

In other business on Tuesday the Board of Commissioners:

  • Approved an update of the Fremont County Airport Security Plan which had not been updated since 2006;
  • Tabled consideration of a hotel and restaurant liquor license for the Crossroads Events Center at Highways 50 and 115 in Penrose.   Owner William Peetz had still not fulfilled his obligation to secure a food service license which is required as part of a hotel and restaurant liquor license.   The Commissioners tabled the matter until July 14th;
  • Authorized the chairman to sign a new contract offer for the possible purchase of a hangar at the Fremont County Airport.   The offer to purchase is for the same amount as the Commissioners approved a month ago but reportedly lost out when another buyer stepped in;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. on July 14th for renewal of a conditional use permit for B & B Septage on property located northeast of the Fremont County Airport.
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Commissioners Seek Disaster Relief from Recent Flooding

This photo depicts the largest of the washouts created by flooding in Phantom Canyon northeast of Canon City in May. There are at least four significant washouts that will need to be repaired in Phantom Canyon before the road reopens later this summer.

The heavy rains and flash flooding that occurred across Fremont County during May prompted the Fremont County Board of Commissioners to adopt a resolution at their May 26th declaring Fremont County a disaster area in hopes of securing disaster declaration funding assistance through the state and federal government.    The disaster declaration follows similar resolutions passed by the Boards of Commissioners in Pueblo and El Paso Counties.   The resolution noted that as of May 26th Fremont County had already accumulated 10.7 inches of rainfall over a five week period since April 1st.

Fremont County Transportation Director Tony Adamic reported that damages just in Phantom Canyon where there were at least four significant washouts of the county road are expected to exceed $775,000.   Combined with damage to County Roads 132, 77, 69. 45, and others it’s expected that total damage could easily top $1.2 million.   Phantom Canyon Road is expected to be closed for several weeks while road crews deal with repairing other flood damaged roads as well as dealing with their planned summer road construction schedule.

The Commissioners approved a grant application request to the Colorado Division of Homeland Security in the amount of $2.9 million in an attempt to recover more costs associated with the June, 2013, wildfire at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.   The federal government made more financial assistance available to Colorado communities hit hard by the 2013 wildfires and flooding.   Fremont County’s grant application seeks assistance in rebuilding County Road 3A to the Royal Gorge which sustained heavy damage from months of heavy truck traffic associated with the reconstruction of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

The Commissioners approved wildfire protection plans for two more rural subdivisions that employed the services of a consultant to make recommendations how homeowners could protect their homes and property from wildfires.   The two wildfire protection plans cover the Dakota Hideout subdivision along County Road 123 just northeast of Cañon City and the Upper Beaver Creek area along County Road 132 northwest of Penrose.

In other business at the May 26th board meeting the Commissioners:

  • Authorized the board chairman to sign a memorandum of understanding with the City of Cañon City that allows the city to take over maintenance of the grassy area behind the county’s Garden Park Building.   The area will be included as part of the development of the Macon Plaza;
  • Approved the Eastern Fremont County Trails, Open Space, and River Corridor Master Plan completed recently by the Cañon City Recreation and Park District;
  • Voted to approve two separate exemptions from county subdivision regulations because of the small area of the lot sizes involved.   The two exemptions in the Lincoln Park area included one for property at the corner of Sherman and Willow and one for property at Ash and Grand;
  • Heard an update report on statistics and activities at the John C. Fremont Library in Florence.
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Planning Commission to Consider Septage Permit Renewal

The Fremont County Planning Commission will handle only one item of business for their monthly meeting on June 2nd.    The Commission will consider a request from Byrd’s Sewer Rooter and Septic Service for a conditional use permit (CUP) on their existing site north of Florence.   Byrd’s permit request is intended to renew and replace an existing CUP on property owned by Vaughn Byrd 1 ½ miles east of the junction of Highways 50 and 67 and a half mile north of Highway 50.   Byrd uses the site for treatment of septage pumped from septic tanks.

If time allows, the Planning Commission will continue ongoing workshop discussion for an update of the Fremont County Master Plan.   The Planning Commission meets at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2nd, in the Board of Commissioners meeting room, LL-3, in the Fremont County Administration Building.

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Commissioners Approve Disaster Declaration for Flooding Damage

Phantom Canyon Road is pictured during the early stages of flash flooding on May 19th. 10.7 inches of rain have fallen in the Canon City area since April 1st.

As Fremont County transportation officials continue to assess damages to county roads from all of the recent flooding, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners joined several other southern Colorado counties in making a disaster declaration in order to seek federal and state emergency assistance.   The resolution approved Tuesday morning during the Board of Commissioners regular meeting notes that the cost and magnitude of recovering from the widespread flooding which has caused severe damage to numerous county roads and other public and private property is far in excess of the county’s available resources.

The resolution also notes that since April 1st total rainfall in Cañon City has measured 10.7 inches, which would be a record for that combined two month period.   Cañon City’s normal average precipitation during April and May is 2.9 inches.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said county road and bridge crews are still assessing all of the damage.   Norden said County Transportation Director Tony Adamic came up with a preliminary cost estimate of $600,000 damage just for the road repairs needed in Phantom Canyon.  It’s expected that Phantom Canyon will be closed several weeks into the summer.

Adamic traveled down Phantom Canyon Wednesday from Teller County to assess the damage and later traveled by ATV from the south end to assess the damage.   Traffic was reopened along the High Park county road to Cripple Creek last week but shoulders along the road will need stabilization work in the coming days.  The Shelf Road to Cripple Creek was also reopened Wednesday morning.   Adamic said crews will also have considerable work to do along County Road 132 in the Upper Beaver Creek area where water continues to wash across the road in several places.

This is one of the most significant road blockages crews will have to deal with in the coming weeks in Phantom Canyon north of Florence.

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Flooding Damages County Roads

Flood waters wash across CR 11--High Park Road Tuesday cutting off employee access and casino traffic into the Cripple Creek and Victor area.

Rainfall of 1 ½ to 2 inches turned quiet streambeds in Fremont County into raging torrents Tuesday.  County Road 11, the High Park Road to Cripple Creek, was closed to all traffic early Tuesday morning as flood waters poured across the road about a mile north of the junction with Colorado Highway 9.

The other routes to Victor and Cripple Creek, Phantom Canyon and Shelf Roads, were also shut down due to flooding.    Teller County Road crews reported Four Mile Creek was running two feet high over the low water crossing at the Fremont-Teller County line on Shelf Road.    In Phantom Canyon, Eight Mile Creek was transformed into a river tossing boulders and large timber around in the narrow canyon.   Phantom Canyon Road was washed out in several spots and large boulders fell from the cliffs to block the roadway.

High Park Road was expected to reopen once the water subsides but Phantom Canyon and Shelf Road will remain closed until crews can assess all the damage and begin making repairs.   That won’t happen until water levels drop and conditions start to dry out.

Eight Mile Creek was turned into a raging river Tuesday afternoon by all the heavy rain. The canyon road was washed out in several spots. It's expected to take road crews several weeks to assess and repair all the damage.

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