You are on page 1of 87

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009


The Saguache County Master Plan guides the conservation and development of the
unincorporated portions of Saguache County. Colorado law requires every city and
county in the state to prepare and adopt a Master plan for the physical development
of the jurisdiction. While the law establishes specific requirements for the contents of
the general plan, within that framework each community has the latitude to design
its own future. Through extensive public participation, many individual residents
from different parts of the County and walks of life have contributed to the creation
of this document.

Vision Statement
The Saguache County Master Plan is a practical statement of the aspirations of the
community of Saguache County citizens, to prepare for and shape the course of
growth and development to protect and enhance the quality of life in Saguache
County for ourselves and future generations.

It is understood that an effective plan must evolve as circumstances change and new
possibilities emerge. This Plan is designed to find the most appropriate place for
those new possibilities while protecting the qualities and attributes of the County
that make living here a treasured experience for those who have chosen to.

What Is a Master Plan and What Does It Mean?

The Master
Planning Process is
the cornerstone for
a community to
define land use
patterns and guide
related public
policy into the
future. Although
planning statutes
use the terms
“master plan” and
“Comp plan”
without distinction,
they are not
identical products.
Colorado law
requires every city
and county in the
state to prepare and adopt a Master long-range general plan for the physical
development of the jurisdiction. However Master planning in Colorado generally
includes planning for social and economic factors beyond the traditional land use

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

plan. This relative flexibility allows the County to transcend traditional physical
growth policies, and broaden the impact of the Master plan to include issues that
reach beyond its physical development.

The Saguache County Master Plan (SCCP) covers all of Saguache County except the
area covered by the Crestone-Baca Sub-area Master Plan and the incorporated towns
of Bonanza, Center, Saguache, Moffat, Crestone and Hooper.

The purpose of the Master Plan is to guide Planning Commission decisions, the
adoption of land use regulations and aid the communities in developing in ways that
reflect and perpetuate our core values.

More specifically, the County is directed to develop a Master Plan for the general
purpose of “guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted, and harmonious
development of the county . . . which in accordance with present and future needs and
resources, will best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity,
or general welfare of the inhabitants, as well as efficiency and economy in the process
of development, including such distribution of population and of the uses of land for
urbanization, trade, industry, habitation, recreation, agriculture, forestry, and other
purposes as will tend to create conditions favorable to health, safety, energy
conservation, transportation,

prosperity, civic activities, and recreational, educational, and cultural opportunities;

will tend to reduce the wastes of physical, financial or human resources which result
from either excessive congestion or excessive scattering of population; and will tend
toward an efficient and economic utilization, conservation, and production of the
supply of food and water and of drainage, sanitary, and other facilities and
resources.” In preparing a Master Plan, the Planning Commission is directed to take
careful and Master survey and studies of present conditions and future growth in the
County, with due regard to the County’s relationship to the neighboring territories.
(CRS 30-28-107)

The relevant authorizing sections of the Colorado Revised Statutes are included as
Appendix A.


Goals of the County Master Plan

1. Provide policy basis for modifying regulations and for development decisions.
The Master Plan provides a framework and parameters for development while
maintaining consistency and fairness. It holds decision-makers accountable to
follow expressed community ideals.

2. Provide a basis for intergovernmental agreements (IGAs)

The SCCP helps identify when and where intergovernmental agreements would
benefit the community. By defining the County’s core values, it provides a
foundation for common understanding and cooperation.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

3. Provide basis for setting priorities and funding

The Plan can aid County officials in determining funding priorities by
reflecting the preferences of their constituents.

The objectives of this Plan are to:
• Establish land use and growth management policy to guide the general public,
and government entities, in providing for future development that protects our
rural character, and treasured natural, cultural, historic and economic
• Preserve our rural lifestyle while connecting with our future by managing the
pace, location and patterns of growth in Saguache County.
• Provide for individualism and fairness for property owners and businesses,
while protecting public health, safety and welfare.
• Protect the quality of natural resources through good stewardship and
mitigation planning and practices.
• Protect working agricultural lands through encouragement of conservation
easements and continuing the right to ranch and farm in Saguache County.
• Provide for the availability of adequate public facilities and services, housing
and transportation by requiring commensurate fiscal responsibility in
association with new development.
• Define residential land use and development.
• Define commercial and industrial land use and development patterns.
• Consider transportation patterns and road services.
• Consider impacts of housing options.
• Consider impacts of development on administration, enforcement, emergency
and social services.

Foundations of the Master Plan

The Saguache County Master Plan was created upon the following tenets:
1. Planning is viewed as a proactive process.
2. Land use should be suitable for and compatible with the environmental
characteristics of the site of the proposed development.
3. Natural and cultural resources shall be identified, conserved and protected.
4. The Master Plan shall support settlement patterns that reflect the realities of
living in Saguache County as described in the “Right to Ranch and Farm”.
5. Growth shall be encouraged in proximity of developed areas.
6. Open lands shall continue to be the defining feature of the landscape of
Saguache County.
7. Adequate public facilities and services shall be provided concurrent with
development (i.e. development impact fees).
8. Plan components shall support a sustainable, balanced economy.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

9. Maximum intergovernmental cooperation is desirable for plan

10. The Master Plan and the implementing rules and regulations shall
demonstrate consistent intent.

Orientation – Where is Saguache County?

Saguache County is located in south-central Colorado, about 170 miles
southwest of Denver. The County is the largest in the San Luis Valley, covering
3168 square miles, and is separated into 2 distinct regions by the Continental
Divide, with the majority of the County lying east of the divide and occupying the
northern end of the San Luis Valley (see Figure 1). The resident population of
Saguache County is about 7,000. The Valley is bounded both east and west by
mountains – the Sangre de Cristo range on the east and the San Juans on the
west. The headwaters of the Rio Grande River are located in this valley, and
parts of Saguache County lie atop one of the largest freshwater underground
aquifers in the continental United States. The western and northwestern slope
portions of the County are part of the Colorado and Arkansas River Basins,
which are largely forested and agricultural land.

Historic Settlement Patterns

Early Exploration and Occupation

The earliest known human occupation in Saguache County dates to 1100 A.D. and is
evidenced by the remains of primitive stone shelters or lookouts at high elevations
western part of the San Luis Valley. The Utes had long been the dominant culture by
the time of the first permanent Spanish settlement. Spanish expeditions reached the
San Luis Valley in the 1500’s. Evidence of Spanish mining activity dating to the
1600’s can be found in the southeastern part of the county at the base of the Sangre
de Cristo Mountain Range. The Carnero Creek drainage was also used by Indians as
a route into the San Juan and La Garita mountains. Small groups of Utes commonly
camped along Saguache Creek during their frequent journeys through the San Luis
Valley. In the early 1800’s fur trappers often passed through the San Luis Valley on
their way to the San Juan Mountains and Gunnison Valley, using the routes
established by the Utes.

In the early 1740, Mexico established land grants in the Valley, including the
Trinchera, Baca Grande, and Sangre de Cristo. In 1848 the San Luis Valley became
a territory of the United States through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Figure 1

The First Permanent Settlements

The first permanent settlement in the County was by the Spanish near La Garita in
the mid-1800’s. The first non-Spanish settlement in the region occurred in 1865,
when soldiers discharged after the Civil War settled in the north of the valley, near
present day Bonanza, as well as Villa Grove and Saguache. The Saguache County
area boasted 304 residents in 1870. The first settlers started farms on 160 acre
tracts granted to them under the federal government’s Homestead Act. Irrigated
agriculture originated south of Saguache where natural arroyos were used to deliver
agricultural water from Saguache Creek to farmland. Wheat was the principle crop.
The grain was milled locally and transported over new toll roads on Poncha Pass and
Cochetopa Pass to mining camps in the Colorado Mountains. As the farming
industry grew and ranching began to develop in the northern San Luis Valley, the
need for organized government and local services grew. Saguache County was
officially founded in 1866 from what was formerly part of Costilla County. In 1874
the town of Saguache was founded. Saguache became the county seat and an

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

important supply center for local ranches and farms, and prospectors who were
beginning to explore the surrounding mountains.

Growth of the Mining Industry

Although agriculture has been the most constant economic activity over the years,
mining has played a tremendous “boom and bust” role in the County’s development
history. By the 1870’s, interest in mineral exploration in Saguache County was
growing. Discoveries of gold and silver deposits were frequently found in the Sangre
de Cristo and the San Juan Mountains. Mining camps would spring up overnight as
excitement surrounded each new discovery. Often, the camps would be abandoned
after just a few months when veins would “play out” or the price of ore would drop.
More permanent settlements were established at Rito Alto Creek, San Isabel Creek,
Cotton Creek and other locations along the eastern edge of the valley. These small
communities typically had a post office, general store, boarding house, and tavern
supported by one hundred to two hundred residents. The population of Duncan is
reported to have reached 4000 in 1892 before residents were forced to leave by the
owners of the Baca Grant, on which the town and mines were illegally located. The
residents of Duncan relocated at the town of Liberty, south of the Baca Grant, but
the new town never fully developed, as the mines were not very successful. As the
mining industry continued its boom/bust cycle, most of the small communities were
abandoned and faded away.

The first large mineral discoveries with lasting effects were made at Bonanza and
Orient Mining Districts in the 1880s. Numerous silver strikes in the Bonanza area
resulted in the establishment of several mining camps and mills near present day
Bonanza. The camps in the Bonanza area supported such amenities as a local
brewery, billiard hall, bowling alley, and hotels. During its heyday in the 1880’s the
town of Bonanza had a population of 1500 and was renowned for its thirty-six
saloons and seven dance halls. Discovery of iron ore at the Orient Mine east of Villa
Grove resulted in a mining camp of 400 people. The Orient Mine supplied the
Colorado Coal and Iron Company’s, later changed to CF&I Pueblo steel mills.
Although the mining industry continued to cycle, activity at Bonanza and Orient
remained relatively stable through the early 1900’s. With completion of the Denver
and Rio Grande Railway from Salida to Alamosa in the 1880’s, Villa Grove became a
thriving community, functioning as a supply center for the surrounding mines.

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad also completed a line to the Gunnison Valley
crossing the Continental Divide at Marshall Pass. The Sargents depot on the west
side of Marshall Pass served as a major refueling and maintenance stop for the
railroad. The town of Sargents (originally known as Marshalltown) was established in
the early 1900’s. In the 1930’s ore from Bonanza was transported by tramway and
loaded on the railroad at Shirley, near the Marshall Pass summit. The Marshall Pass
railroad route proved to be too difficult to maintain in the winter and was eventually
removed. The old water tower and remains of maintenance buildings and coal chutes
can still be seen in Sargents.

Gold was discovered near Crestone in 1880 and again in 1892. These strikes led to
growth of a permanent settlement. When a railroad spur reached Crestone in 1900,
the town became the principal mining community on the east side of the San Luis

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Mineral exploration spread into the western portion of the county following
termination of the Los Pinos Indian Agency and Reservation and relocation of a local
band of Ute Indians to the Uncomphagre Plateau near Montrose, Colorado. Iris, in
the far northwestern part of the county, and Sky City, in the La Garita Mountains,
were thriving mining camps near the turn of the century. The Esperanza Mine in
Biedall Canyon led to growth of the La Garita area during the same period.

These mining activities were responsible for the County’s growth in population.
After1930 the County’s population declined steadily until around 1970, when US
Census data recorded a population of 3827. By 1987, there were 4785 residents, but
then the next couple of years saw a decline. The population returns to the 1987
population levels in 1992.
Currently some areas of the County are growing relatively fast, while others have
declined slightly. The Town of Crestone, for example, grew 68% between 2000-2006,
and population growth in the unincorporated portion of the County was 26% in the
same period. It is likely that a significant portion of that growth took place in the
Baca Grande subdivision, adjacent to Crestone. In contrast, the towns of Moffat,
Center and Saguache all lost population (an average of 4.3%) during the same period.
The percentage of the population living in the unincorporated part of the County
increased from 47% to 53% in just 6 years. According to the Colorado Dept of Local
Affairs, population growth in recent years is 44% “natural” (i.e. births minus deaths)
and 56% the result of net migration.

Demographic Basics*:

Population: about 7,000

Under age 5: 6.8% Under age 10: 14.7%

Under age 20: 27.7% Age 60 & over: 18.2%

51.5% white 45.7% Hispanic 2.8% Other – mostly Native American/mixed race

Language other than English spoken at home: 36.5% Foreign Born: 14.5%

Median Age: 39 Average household size 2.44

Level of Education, population over 25 (2000):

Less than High School: 30% High School only: 24.8%
Some College: 25.6% College degree or higher: 19.6%

Median Household Income (2008): $31,054

Median Family Income (2008): $35,918
Per Capita Income (2008): $15,823
Persons below Federal “poverty line”: 30.6%
Average full time income (1999) - males $33,552
Average full time income – females: $25,154

Data taken from multiple sources, including: Map Stats; SLV DRG CDIS; CO Dept of Local Affairs, Bureau of
Labor Statistics, US Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Average travel time to work: 20 minutes

Employed civilian population 16 years and over: 2955

Management, professional, and related occupations 27.9%
Service occupations 13.4%
Sales and office occupations 21.0%
Farming, ranching, fishing, and forestry occupations 14.3%
Construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations 11.7%
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations 11.7%

1999 data was the most recent available for breakdown of income on the County
level. Overall, median household income increased 18.4% between 2000-2007. This
should be kept in mind when the following table, which should be updated as soon
as more current figures are available.

% earning at this
Less than $10,000 17.8%
$10,000-14,999 10.8%
$15,000-24,999 20.2%
$25,000-34,999 17.7%
$35,000-49,999 14.4%
$50,000-74,999 11.5%
$75,000-99,999 4.5
$100,000-149,999 2.5%
$150,000-200,000 .2%
Over $200,000 .5%

There were more recent data available for per capita income. The following table
reveals no change in what has been historically true. In terms of measurable
income, Saguache County is one of the poorest County’s in the State.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Per Capita Personal Income - 2000-2005

% % of
change Rank CO % of US
2000 2002 2003 2004 2005 2000- of 64 CO per per
2005 counties capita capita

Alamosa $20,570 $23,378 $23,251 $24,002 $24,985 21.5 50 66.6 72.5

Conejos 15,650 16,644 17,599 18,111 18,875 20.6 62 50.3 34.7
Costillo 17,755 18,935 19,909 20,395 22,158 24.8 55 59.1 64.3
Mineral 22,100 23,830 25,197 27,126 27,066 22.% 40 72.2 78.5
Rio Grande 22,277 26,446 25,901 25,594 26,793 20.3 41 71.1 77.7
Saguache 15,257 18,258 17,046 17,231 17,999 16.7 64 47.9 52.2
SLV 18,753 23,151 23.5 61.7 67.2
Colorado 33,367 37,510 12.4 100 109
U.S. 29.843 34,471 15.5 91.9 100
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, December 2007
SLV Development Resources Group C-9 2007

Saguache County sub-area character descriptions

Crestone-Baca Area
Crestone was officially established on November 4, 1880 after the discovery of gold in
Burnt Gulch, east of the town, in 1879. Mining and ranching fueled the early
economy of the town. The Town of Crestone was incorporated on March 29, 1901.
The Town declined with the mining industry between 1930-1970. In 1971, the
Arizona Land and Cattle Company platted one of its properties for land development,
forming The Baca Grande, located south of Crestone. This community helped
revitalize Crestone, which became the commercial center for Baca Grande residents.
Today the Town of Crestone is dedicated to serving as an attractive and vibrant
business center, while preserving its historic character and its atmosphere of peace
and quiet. Crestone, together with the Baca Grande, is a haven for summer
vacationers, hikers and climbers, retirees and spiritual communities.

The Baca Grande is a 14,000-acre subdivision situated just outside of the Town of
Crestone. Situated on the eastern side of the County in the foothills directly abutting
the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it is under the jurisdiction of the Baca Grande
Property Owners Association. As a result of the close relationship between the
subdivision and the Town, generic references to "Crestone" or the "Crestone
Community" often include the Baca Grande.
The Crestone-Baca sub-area has its own Master Plan and sub-area planning
commission, so while the Baca is unincorporated, it is not covered under this Plan.

Villa Grove/Bonanza Area

Villa Grove is an unincorporated community located on Highway 285 in the northern
part of the County. It provides tourist-related services for travelers, as well as a hub
for the surrounding areas, with the Post Office and other services. Bonanza is an
incorporated town that grew up around the mining activities located about 15 miles

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

west of Villa Grove. The town is struggling with a very small population that can no
longer support a town board and related government services.

Moffat/ Hooper Area

Moffat and Hooper are both incorporated towns located along CO Highway 17.
Hooper sits on the Saguache/Alamosa County line and is mostly located in Alamosa
County. The hot springs fed Sand Dunes swimming pool is located northeast of town.

Moffat has a K-12 school along with other small businesses. The Town of Moffat has
incorporated large agricultural areas within its limits.

Saguache Area

The Town of Saguache was designated the county seat in 1866 when Saguache
County was created from the northern part of Costilla County. It is located at the
junction of US 285 and CO 114. Its history is significant, and in 2009 4th Street
business district was listed on Colorado’s list of most endangered historic places. A
revitalization project is underway. The Town of Saguache is surrounded by ranch,
agricultural and private lands.

Cochetopa /Sargents Area

Sargents is an unincorporated community located on Highway 50 at the west base of

Monarch Pass. It provides limited services for travelers. There are several
subdivisions and 35-acre developments located on the west side of the continental
divide, as well as some large ranches.

The Cochetopa region is a ranching area that follows Highway 114 northwest toward
Gunnison. This area is primarily national forest, and largely undeveloped.

Center/La Garita Area

Center is an incorporated town that lies partly in Saguache County and partly in Rio
Grande County. It has the largest population of the towns in Saguache County.
Farms on both sides of the county line surround it, and agricultural processing
plants are located here. Center has a commercial district with several shops and
services, as well as a County facility building.

More information for the various sub-areas can be found at the Saguache County
website, in the Saguache County Visitors Guide and the
Saguache County Resource Guide and Business Directory.

• Each area in Saguache County has several different businesses. Listed below
are just a sample of the types of businesses in Saguache County.

• County Museum
• Inns, motels, and B&Bs
• General Stores
• Convenience Stores

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

• Antique and Pottery stores

• Coffee Houses
• RV Parks
• Post Offices
• Storage Units
• Churches
• Banks
• Airport/landing strips
• Meat processing facilities
• Dog grooming
• Clinics
• Schools
• Restaurants
• News papers
• Yoga
• Movie Theaters
• Dentists
• County Musuem
• Tire Stores
• Terminal Scales
• Apartments
• Auto repair parts and services
• Rental Cabins
• Liquor Stores
• Department Stores (Big R)
• Potato Storage
• Laundry
• Fertilizer plants
• Government facilities
• Realty Offices

Saguache County has so many and so much historical locations such as:
• Marshall Pass
• Old Indian Agency
• Town Site of Iris and several different old mining towns
• Town of Sargents
• Alfred Packer figure at the Saguache County Museum
• Gold, Silver, and Uranium Mining
• Stock Drives and dipping vats
• Forts
• Toll Roads

Several Places of Interest/Recreation:

• San Luis Peak (14er)
• Dome lakes
• McDonough Reservoir
• Needle Creek Reservoir
• Cochetopa Dome

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

• Razor Creek Dome

• Saguache Park
• Forest Service/BLM
• Fishing and Hunting
• Snyder Ranch/DOW Easement
• Saguache Creek Corridor Easement
• Water Fowl viewing
• Town of Sargents
• Old Cochetopa Pass
• Pentitente Canyon
• Wagon Wheel Tracts
• Indian Paintings

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Land Ownership and Use

Of the 3168 square miles that comprise Saguache County, about 74% are publicly
owned, 68.7% federal and 4.7% State. The following table gives the breakdown.

Total Acres 2,027,940 100%

Federal 1,394,376 68.7%
US Forest Service 903,736 47.6
BLM 344,554 17.3
National Park Service 89,326 5.0%
US Fish & Wildlife 56, 760 4.6%
State 95,195 4.7%
State Land Board 83,332
School Trust Fund 10,222
CO Div of Wildlife 1,464
Private 538,369 26.6%

In terms of classification, the total lands of the County (both public and private)
break down as follows:

Residential AG Range Forest Waste Tundra Wetland Water

Acres 45,297 121,293 732,072 874,680 175,846 65,460 3,154* 739

% of 2.2% 6.0% 36.1% 43.1% 8.7% 3.2% .6% -
* Refers to formal classification – there are many more acres of seasonal wetlands

In short, range, forest and agricultural lands make up over 85% of the County.

In terms of private lands in the unincorporated territory, data from the County Tax
Assessor shows the following land classifications:

MEADOW 40,979
GRAZE 195,933
WASTE 175,846

TOTAL Private lands 538,369

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009


Building on Past Planning Efforts

The original County Master Plan (1974) contained a good historic base upon which a
new plan could be built. Interests and concerns that remain current today include:
• A strong resident focus on the lifestyle and natural environment that
characterize life here.
• Recreation oriented subdivisions and land speculation converting acres from
agriculture to residential use.
• The popularity of thirty-five and forty-acre “ranchettes” pose a continued
threat to the old mountain ranches.
• While per capita income has risen, Saguache still is one of the poorest
counties in the state.
• The desire to attract “value-added” manufacturing enterprises to utilize farm
products locally.

The philosophy in 1974 for planning and land use regulation in Saguache County
was developed and based on the following ideas:

1. Landownership in a free society carries with it certain inherent rights and

responsibilities. Landowners have a right to use their property in a manner
which does not cause harm to adjacent lands or the general public. Therefore,
land use policies and regulations should be developed only to the extent
necessary to prevent harm or interference with the rights and freedoms of
residents of Saguache County.
2. Planning and land use regulation is a democratic process. Therefore, land use
decisions and policy making should be carried out in a transparent manner
and with great integrity. Citizen input should be actively sought in reviewing
or adopting plans, policies, and regulations.
3. The impacts of land use often extend across jurisdictional borders. Therefore,
intergovernmental and regional cooperation in planning and land use
regulation should be encouraged.

While today, residents’ expressed concerns indicate more tolerance for regulation in
order to preserve environmental quality and open space, increase the quality of our

Summary of Public Involvement

As this Plan update has been underway for some years, there have been numerous
rounds of community inputs, including a survey in 2000, community forums in all
areas of the County in 2005, a facilitated public process in 2006, as well as the most
recent process which began in January of 2008.

The Core Values developed by the 2006 process are summarized on the following 2

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

The 2008 Public Process

As stated above Saguache County has hosted several public forums in recent years
aimed at getting meaningful inputs from County residents.

Fundamental to the development of the Master Plan was a series of land use
concepts derived from the keypad polling process. Guiding concepts that were
expressed during past forums were reaffirmed during this meeting. They included:

• Efficient Growth Pattern & Service Provision

• An Intentional Future / Manage Growth (max. benefit w/ min negative
• Sustainable Growth (clustered)/Good Stewardship
• Protect Scenic & Historic Resources
• Plan for Adequate Income-Generating activities
• Enhance Recreation / Tourism opportunities
• Protect Critical Natural Resources / Environmental & Habitat Protection/
Scenic Vistas
• Respect Existing Agriculture and its Heritage
• Protect our “unique, sacred and revered places”

Master Rate of Growth

A community’s perception of the rate of growth is a cornerstone of how the County perceives
its past and plans for its future. As shown below, nearly 60% of respondents felt that growth
was either “about right” or “slow”. This finding is important from the perspective of ensuring
that future growth should be sustainable and provide needed attributes to the community.

How would you rate County growth over the past 5 years?

Too Slow 20.40%

Slow 9%

About Right
Fast 35.80%

Too Fast 25.40%

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Future Growth

Next the participants were asked a series of questions regarding future growth in the County.
When asked specifically what measures should the County take as change occurs in the future,
over 85% of residents supported the orderly expansion of the community, with only 10%
supporting slowing the rate of growth through policy intervention.



4% Slow Growth

Accommodate new
Stay out of growth


Future Level of Service

Level of Service represents the relative perception of the community regarding how efficient
public services such as fire, police, and ambulance are at their current rate. An important
finding of the key pad polling was that residents strongly support that future development do
not degrade existing levels of service, and support the notion that future growth should pay its
own way by addressing and mitigating impacts to public services.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

If future development results in a reduced level of service to existing

residents, would you support it?

Yes 15.90%
No 84.10%

Open Space and Environmental Ethos

Saguache County and the entire San Luis Valley are located in one the most captivating
landscapes in the country - a jewel of the Mountain West. The County has a rich history of
agricultural production and is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. For example, over 97% of
respondents felt that as growth occurs, the County should be an active participant in the
preservation and protection of open space. Environmental degradation and the loss of
agriculture and open space are primary concerns of those living in the County.

As the County grows, should it be active in protecting critical open


Yes 97.10
No 2.90

Opportunities for the Future

The residents of Saguache County see the viability and opportunities that future
well-thought out growth can bring to the San Luis Valley, and that economic

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

development and job creation can be facilitated without compromising

environmental protection and open space preservation, which are considered
paramount to residents. Both must constitute key components of the Future Land
Use Map.

18% 3%
9% Enhance
Preserve AG
3% Provide
1% Expand
11% Attract
34% Preserve Open Space
Provide Economic Dev.
Establishment and Refinement of Goals, Policies and Strategies
The establishment of goals, policies and strategies are used in this context to
articulate an ideal future situation. For a plan to have integrity, goals must
accurately reflect the stated values of the citizens of Saguache County. Goals are
considered a desired condition for the future and strategies are specific ways to
obtain these goals. The establishment of goals provides the basis for determining
alternative land use scenarios and code modifications as necessary.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Section III: Framework: Planning for Sustainability

What is Sustainability?
Over 20 years ago (1987), the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment
and Development released a report, “Our Common Future,” which brought the term
sustainability into widespread use. In defining sustainability, the United Nations’
World Commission offered these five key concepts:
• The needs of the future must not be sacrificed to the demands of the present.
• Humanity’s economic future is linked to the integrity of natural systems.
• The present world system is not sustainable because it is not meeting the
needs of many, especially the poor.
• Protecting the environment is impossible unless we improve the economic
prospects of the Earth’s poorest peoples.
• We must act to preserve as many options as possible for future generations,
since they have the right to determine their own needs for themselves.

Sustainability is also referred to as taking a whole systems approach that

successfully aligns environmental, economic and social equity concerns in a manner
that results in multiple benefits.
In the long run, sustainability means adapting human activities to the constraints
and opportunities of nature, while meeting the needs of both the present and the

The American Planning Association has identified the following four objectives in
planning for sustainability:
1. Reduce dependence upon fossil fuels, extracted underground metals and
2. Reduce dependence on chemicals and other manufactured substances that can
accumulate in Nature.
3. Reduce dependence on activities that harm life-sustaining ecosystems.
4. Meet the hierarchy of present and future human needs fairly and efficiently.

In summary, for the purposes of this Master Plan, sustainability is defined as

aligning our built environment and socio-economic activities with both the natural
systems that support life and citizens expressed core values.

Why plan sustainable communities?

Two current trends that demonstrate the need for planning healthy, safe, and
sustainable communities are the increasing impact of greenhouse gases on the
world’s climate, and the decreasing supply of resources that support life.

Nearly our entire built environment is now powered by fossil fuels, which creates the
greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The increasingly manifest
consequences of global warming highlight the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Current research on ecological sustainability increasingly indicates that the

worldwide use of resources is exceeding the Earth’s capacity for renewal. In the past
30 years, human demand on natural resources has increased 50 percent while the
ability of natural systems to renew themselves has declined 30 percent (Living Planet
Report, 2000). Clearly if the developed and rapidly developing countries continue
current consumption and development habits, there will soon be nothing left to plan

The Challenge
One of the toughest challenges for humans is to recognize the gaps between what we
say we value and want, and what our activities are actually creating. With the
adoption of this plan, Saguache County residents are making a commitment to
sustainable growth, even if it means moving away from historically acceptable and,
for some, personally desirable practices While we surely want to maintain our
agricultural heritage – we are aware that this is one reason we have so much open
space - we acknowledge also residents expressed desire for a more diverse economic
base and the inevitable development of at least some percentage of the County’s
abundant solar resources. We want to support and promote sustainable
agriculture, and at the same time do a Master assessment of our land use patterns
and planning for development that moves beyond “agriculture only”.

Guiding Principles
Planning for sustainability is an overarching theme of the Saguache County Master
Plan. Saguache County government is committed to leading by example, promoting
public participation, and to intergovernmental and community partnerships that
protect the natural systems that support life and improve our quality of life. To
design a sustainable future, we will strive to:
1. Improve the vitality of our communities, economy, and environment by seeking
developments that provide multiple benefits.
2. Support energy conservation and efficiency and promote the use of renewable
resources while optimizing use of water and all finite resources.
3. Steward our natural and agricultural assets responsibly.
4. Reduce the use and minimize the release of hazardous materials.
5. Increase affordable, well-designed, energy-efficient, and diverse housing choices
close to job centers and shopping.
6. Foster businesses that create economic, environmental, and social benefits in
alignment with our values.
7. Educate and prepare our workforce and residents, making high-quality education,
workforce preparation, and lifelong learning opportunities available to all
residents of the county.
8. As they become feasible, participate in regional transportation efforts aimed at
improving efficiency and reducing our dependence on single-occupancy vehicles.

9. Respect ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

10. Support public health, safety, and social justice.

The Saguache County Master Plan is intended to reflect and further elaborate on
these guiding principles.

Elements of Smart Growth

Interestingly, the current, widely-accepted parameters of “Smart Growth” reflect
much of what Saguache County residents have been saying all along. The elements
of Smart Growth are geared to creating livable communities that meet the needs of
people while using less land and energy resources and preserving open space,
agricultural land, scenic beauty and habitat for wildlife. These include:

1. Mix land uses

2. Take advantage of compact building design
3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
4. Create walkable neighborhoods, where appropriate
5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental
7. Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
8. Provide a variety of transportation choices
9. Make development decisions predictable, fair and cost effective
10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development

Recognizing that the resource intensive development models of the last 60 years are
not sustainable, the Saguache County Planning Commission embraces Smart
Growth concepts.

As this Master Plan only covers the unincorporated areas of the County, we strongly
encourage each municipality within the County also to embrace these principles, in
order to ensure a coordinated, harmonious and sustainable development throughout
the County. It will be up to the local planning bodies to determine how growth will
occur within the boundaries of local municipalities. This plan aims to establish land
use policies that will interface effectively with local plans, as well as establish
parameters for growth and development throughout the County that are consistent
with our overarching goal of sustainability.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009


Saguache County is comprised of high altitude, semi-arid valleys and surrounding
mountainous alpine environments. It is essentially public and agricultural land.
Nearly all of the activities that take place here are land based - ranching, farming,
mining, logging, recreation and retreat - with just enough residential and less than
enough commercial to support these. Most commercial exchanges of County
residents take place in the counties to the north and south and west (Chaffee,
Alamosa, Rio Grande, Gunnison) or by order and delivery. There is little industrial

Using available Geographic Information System (GIS) data from a variety of sources,
a Master “mapping atlas” of the County was prepared. These maps are both
scattered throughout and attached as an appendix to this Plan. In addition, the
County has extensive maps detailing its “1041 designated areas” – Areas and
Activities of State Interest. These areas were designated by the state in the 1970s,
and have recently been updated and computerized, which will greatly assist the
Planning Commission in its current efforts to designate appropriate areas for

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Agricultural Land
The existence of large areas of “Prime Farmland” are shown on the map below. The
concept favored by the Plan is that individual land owners have both the ability to
develop their property consistent with designated planning areas, remain in
agricultural production or protect their land from incompatible developments.

Ranching and farming are the primary economic activity in the County. The
following table summarizes the County’s commercial agricultural production for
2008 from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Other commodities
such as carrots, lettuce and spinach are also raised on a commercial scale, but no
USDA data was available on these.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Commodity Practice Planted All Harvested Yield per Production

Purposes Acre
Wheat Irrigated 11,900 11,000 94.5 bushel 1,040,000
(Spring) acres acres bushel
Barley Irrigated 15,800 12,500 128 bushel 1,600,000
acres acres bushel
Hay (all) Irrigated 65,300 1.96 tons (dry) 128,000 tons
Potatoes Not reported 15,300 15,200 345 5,215,000
acres acres hundredweight hundredweight

Recorded USDA data for 2009 indicates there are 18,500 cattle and calves in the
County. No data was available for other livestock, nor the amount of beef produced.
It should be noted that nearly all of the crops produced in the county are irrigated.

Everson Ranch – protected by the Orient Land Trust

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

The majority of Saguache County derives its water from the Rio Grande Basin. The
portion of the county west of the Continental Divide is part of the Upper Gunnison
Basin and its waters are tributaries to the Colorado River. A small portion in the
North is part of the Arkansas River Basin. The Rio Grande is the largest river in the
area and has perennial flow through most of its length in Colorado and New Mexico.
The river flows across the broad basin-fill deposits in the San Luis Valley in
Colorado and then flows through about 100 miles of deep canyon and small
intermountain basins in northern New Mexico. South of Santa Fe, N.M., the river
flows through a series of broad basins and narrow valleys to the State line in
southern New Mexico. The Rio Grande Compact represents a highly negotiated
agreement involving a complex set of measurements to determine the amount of Rio
Grande water that will be “delivered” to New Mexico and Texas. The Colorado River
west of the Divide flows through Utah, Nevada and California before reaching
Mexico, and its flows are subject to a separate compact. It would not be an
exaggeration to say that had it not been for these compacts, wars would be fought
over water in this part of the country.

Most basins along the Rio Grande have surface drainage to the river and are
topographically open basins. The northern end of the San Luis Valley and most
other basins distant from the river have internal surface-water drainage and are
topographically closed basins that generally do not contribute stream flow to the Rio
Grande or its tributaries. Much of the stream flow in the more mountainous
northern part of the Rio Grande is derived from snowmelt runoff in the mountains.
Stream flow in the southern part of the river system is derived from upstream flow,
ground-water discharge, and runoff from summer thunderstorms. Larger quantities
of recharge generally occur along the higher mountains in the northern parts of the
aquifer system.

While runoff produces most mountain-front recharge to the aquifer system, in some
mountainous areas, thick and extensive layers of volcanic rocks are sufficiently
permeable to enable large volumes of water to flow through the rocks and directly
recharge the basin-fill aquifers. The San Juan Mountains to the west and the Sangre
De Cristo Mountains to the east of the San Luis Valley provide a contrast in this
regard. About one-half of the approximately 2,000,000 acre-feet per year flow of
water that enters the San Luis Valley from the San Juan Mountains is through
bedrock aquifers in extensive layers of volcanic rocks that extend from the
mountains into the basin fill. The much smaller drainage area of the Sangre de
Cristo Mountains is underlain by relatively impermeable sedimentary and crystalline
rocks and yields only about 250,000 acre-feet per year of water to the valley. Almost
all this water is stream flow.

Discontinuous clay layers divide the aquifer underlying parts of the County into 2
sections: the “unconfined” aquifer above and the confined aquifer below. Since the
study of the unconfined aquifer began in 1976, a cumulative loss of more than one

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

million acre-feet has been measured, with a large portion of that recorded after the
devastating drought reached its apex in 20021.

While the water provided by annual Colorado stream flows is ample, the seasonal
nature of the flow is not consistent with the demand by Colorado citizens for
domestic, agriculture and industry uses. Nearly 2/3 of the annual water flow
(measured in acre feet of water) occurs during the late spring/early summer runoff.
During the winter months of December, January and February only 3% of annual
flows occur.

Presently, Colorado reservoirs store the spring runoff from mountain snowpack for
use in the late summer and low flow winter months. This "reserved" water is stored
for use throughout the year by downstream users. A factor sometimes overlooked
when assessing the adequacy of rainfall in terms of water supply is evaporation. In
the San Luis Valley the average rate of pan evaporation during a (summer) month
may be as much as 10 times more than the average rate of precipitation for the
month. The rate of evaporation is so large due to high summer temperatures, low
relative humidity, abundant sunshine, and frequent wind2. Water loss to
evaporation has an important effect on ground-water quality in areas of irrigated
agriculture, near playas, and other areas of shallow water table. Evaporation
removes water from the aquifer or the soil but does not remove the minerals that
formerly were dissolved in the water. These minerals can accumulate in the soil to
form alkali deposits or salt flats or can be flushed from the soil by infiltration of
precipitation or irrigation water. Additional dissolved solids carried into the aquifer
from such surface sources can form a zone of degraded ground-water quality at the
top of the aquifer.

Water Rights
The legal right to divert and use water in Colorado has been deliberated and defined
from before the time of statehood in 1876. Article 16 of the Colorado constitution
defines the water doctrine known as "prior appropriation", which has stood the test
of time as Colorado developed from a frontier western state to the modern era of the
late 20th century. Since 1876, the constitution and subsequent water court rulings
have governed the use, diversion and storage of water in Colorado. "Prior
appropriation shall give the better right as between those using the water for the
same purpose...." is a Colorado constitutional excerpt that is the basis for the first in
use, first in right doctrine of water appropriation. This Colorado water doctrine has
become one of the legal foundations upon which water is governed, managed and
distributed in Colorado. The appropriation doctrine envelops several interrelated
concepts. The two major concepts are: 1) a water right is a right to the use of the
water; the right is acquired by appropriation; and 2) an appropriation is the act of
diverting water from its source and applying it to a beneficial use.

The State Engineer's office in Colorado maintains records on water usage, diversions
and stream flows. Presently the state is divided into 7 water divisions, with 80
districts. The San Luis Valley portion of the County is in Division 3, the far western
portion is in Division 4 and the Northeast corner is in Division 5 and District 28

Colorado Division of Water Resources
USGS Groundwater Atlas of the U.S., HA 730_C

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

covers Tomichi Creek area and Saguache County portions of the Cochetopa area.
Colorado's water is administered according to the Colorado doctrine of prior
appropriation, state law, water court decrees and interstate compacts.

As part of the Department of Natural Resources, the Division of Water Resources

provides specific services to citizens of the state including administration of laws in
accordance with court decrees and state legislation. The DWR has drafted new rules
that are expected to be adopted later this year that will markedly change the use of
well water for irrigated agriculture3.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) was created in 1937 for the
purpose of aiding in the protection and development of the waters of the state. The
agency is responsible for water project planning and finance, stream and lake
protection, flood hazard identification and mitigation, weather modification, river
restoration, water conservation and drought planning, water information, and water
supply protection. There is a district for each major river basin. Operative within
the County are the Rio Grande, Colorado, Upper Gunnison and Upper Arkansas
Water Conservation Districts.

Rio Grande and Gunnison Basin waters in the State of Colorado are currently over-
allocated, with projected shortfalls of hundreds of thousands of acre feet by the year
2030. Current agricultural practices in terms of water are not sustainable*. Tens of
thousands of acres of irrigated land need to be taken out of production in order to
make up the deficit, and to ensure our obligations under various water compacts are
met. The new DWR rules which are expected to be adopted later this year will re-
classify use of well water for irrigation as a junior right. This will cause a significant
shift in agriculture, as in the 60’s and 70’s, with the advent of center pivot
sprinklers, many farmers got well permits for the center of the (quarter) section and
have been using groundwater, as opposed to or in conjunction with ditch water, for
irrigation. Region 3 DWR staff estimates that of the 600,000 irrigated acres in the
Valley, about 25% use solely ditch water, 20% use solely well water and 55% use a
combination. The economy of Saguache County (and in fact the entire San Luis
Valley) is highly dependent on irrigated agriculture.

The DWR says it has been talking to farmers for several years about the impending
regulatory changes, and wants farmers directly involved in getting well water use
under control. The Division is encouraging farmers to set up sub-districts in order
that farmers can pool efforts and gather the resources needed to set up
augmentation plans and acquire the necessary water. Landowners in the area south
of Saguache Creek, as well as Villa Grove and Saguache are currently in the process
of creating sub-districts.

The San Luis Valley Water Conservation District has secured a transbasin
augmentation source, but this won’t reach beyond Center according to the DWR
Region 3 Director, who sees challenges ahead for other sub-districts securing
adequate augmentation. Clearly the issue of water must be in the forefront of
County development decisions.

Interview with DWR Region 3 Director
For example, it takes 2 to 3 acre feet of water to produce an acre of alfalfa

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Saguache County is home to a myriad of wildlife, including elk, coyote, black bear,
bald and golden eagles, lynx, pronghorn, mule deer, mountain lion, wolverine, ferret,
mountain goat, fox, big horn sheep, Gunnison sage grouse, moose, badger,
raccoons, weasels, geese, snakes, owls, ptarmigan, peregrine and many other birds.
The County is nearly 75% public land, including national forest, wildlife refuge,
national park, wilderness, BLM and state land. There is significant riparian avian
habitat in both permanent and seasonal wetlands.

Maps of the various habitat areas for many of the species listed are included in the
atlas that accompanies this Plan. Habitat, migration corridors and breeding
grounds/seasons are all factors affecting the what, where and when of construction
activities in the County.

Threatened or Endangered Species

The County is home to a number of animal species that are listed as threatened,
endangered or of special concern by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and/or the US
Fish & Wildlife Service. The table below displays these species and their status:

Black-Footed Ferret Federal and State Endangered
Lynx State Endangered/ Federal Threatened
Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Federal and State Endangered
Wolverine State Endangered
Rio Grande Sucker (fish) State Endangered
Bald Eagle State Threatened
Mexican Spotted Owl Federal – Threatened
American Peregrine Falcon State – Species of Special Concern
Gunnison Sage Grouse “
Mountain Plover “
Rio Grande Chubb “
Rio Grande Cutthroat “
Colorado Divisions of Wildlife, 10/15/07. US Fish & Wildlife Service, Colorado Office, 8/16/04.

Wetlands are defined as “lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems
where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by
shallow water”4. Wetlands cover only about 1.5 percent of Colorado (1 million acres)
and are of high ecological and economic value5. Wetlands provide an array of
ecological goods and services which include: 1) habitat for rare hydric plants and
wildlife, 2) water quality improvements through retention of sediments and
nutrients, 3) flood attenuation, 4) bank stabilization, 5) biochemical cycling

Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States (Cowardin et al. 1979)
US Geological Survey, 1996

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

(nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, etc.) and 6) a source of recreation, timber, and other
natural products for commercial use.

Although valuable, 50% of all Colorado wetlands have been converted and/or
drained over the last two centuries. Development activities in Colorado wetlands are
now regulated by Federal statutory prohibitions and State oversight. Federal law has
established "no net loss policy" for wetlands authorized by the Clean Water Act. The
goal of the Clean Water Act to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and
biological integrity of the nation's surface waters includes wetlands. In an effort to
curb degradation of wetlands, Section 401 requires water quality certification by the
United States Environmental Protection Agency for any project affecting wetlands
and Section 404 requires a developer to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers (USACE) in order to develop in wetlands. The Corps will generally grant a
permit if three sequential conditions are met by an applicant: 1) all practical steps to
avoid adverse impacts to wetlands are taken 2) all unavoidable damage to wetlands
is minimized and 3) permanent destruction of wetlands is mitigated by creating a
new wetland or by restoring a degraded one (usually in the same watershed).

According to the USACE and US Environmental Protection Agency, compensatory

mitigation attempts to provide “no net loss” of wetlands. Thus, if development occurs
in Colorado wetlands requiring draining and/or degradation of natural wetlands
than the developer will be required to fully mitigate for the damage occurring to the
natural wetlands.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Conservation Areas
The Colorado Natural Heritage Program is a natural resource research program
funded and hosted by Colorado State University. The CNHP conducted an inventory
of the Closed Basin portion of the County in order to ascertain which are the most
biologically important areas in terms of maintaining biodiversity6. As a result they
proposed 45 conservation sites which include all of the elements of concern found in
this part of Saguache County. The sites are classified in order of their biological or
conservation significance, i.e. a site with a B1 biodiversity rank is the most
irreplaceable and in need of permanent protection, while a site with a B5 biodiversity
rank is of general significance. Overall, of the 45 proposed conservation sites, one
was ranked as outstanding (B1), 13 very significant (B2), 17 significant (B3), 10
moderate (B4) and 4 of general biodiversity significance (B5).

Of the 45 proposed conservation sites wholly or parted contained within the County,
several stand out as extremely significant. Foremost is the Great Sand Dunes. This
site has been given the highest biodiversity rank of B1, placing it as one of the most
important conservation sites in Colorado. The playa lakes landscape is also a very
important area, with four sites delineated, three very significant: Russell, Mishak,
and San Luis Lakes/Sand Creek. The playa lake landscape is important for
abundant nesting and migratory birds, plants, and plant communities. Russell
Lakes harbors one of the world’s largest known populations of the globally rare
slender spiderflower.

Geologic features/hazards and topographic

The Rio Grande Rift is the principal geologic feature of the area. The rift affected
the configuration of the highlands that boundary of the San Luis Valley, which in
turn has affected precipitation, runoff, groundwater recharge, source material of
the basin fill, aquifer characteristics, and water quality. The rift is a northward-
trending series of interconnected, down faulted and rotated blocks located between
uplifted blocks to the east and west. There are 4 fault lines that run approximately
N-NW through or into the County from the south. These are shown on a map in
the attached atlas. Various blocks have been displaced downward thousands of
feet, and most of the rift has been filled with alluvium and volcanic rocks (basin
fill). The thickness of the basin fill is unknown in most areas but is estimated to be
as much as 30,000 feet in the San Luis Valley. Total vertical displacement across
some faults that border the rift exceeds 20,000 feet from the crest of the nearby
mountains to the top of the equivalent rocks in the rift. Most basins of the rift are
bounded on the north and west by Tertiary and Quaternary volcanic rocks.
Igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks of Precambrian, Paleozoic, and
Mesozoic ages form the eastern boundary of most basins.

Saguache County, Closed Basin Biological Inventory Volume I: A Natural Heritage Assessment Final Report,

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Most of the bedrock formations that bound the basin are relatively impermeable.
Although some volcanic rocks, solution-altered carbonate rocks, or extensively
fractured beds can yield water in local areas, the bedrock as a whole has minimal
permeability and is considered to form an impermeable base to the Rio Grande
aquifer system.

Steep Slope and Ridgeline Development

Development on hillsides and steep slopes poses a high risk of erosion and an
increased risk of landslides both during and after construction. Sedimentation
resulting from erosion can be particularly detrimental to stream water quality and
wildlife. The roads needed to access steep slope development are also problematic
and are expensive to maintain. Failure to regulate development on steep slopes can
result in degradation of water quality, endangerment of public safety and welfare
through the increased likelihood of landslides and excessive road maintenance
costs. Development on windward slopes is also particularly vulnerable to wildfire
hazards. While the current LDC asks developers to identify any geologic hazards,
assure soil suitability, etc., no standards are delineated for building on slopes,
although there are standards for any road that the County will be expected to

Also, there has been concern expressed by residents over the years about protecting
skylines and ridgelines from development, so that the visual imposition of
development is minimized and the natural lines sculpted by nature are maintained.

Wildfire represents the most likely to occur significant hazard in the County. The
areas of most concern vis-à-vis risks to human life and property are known as
wildland-urban interface (WUI) zones. There is only one WUI identified as a “Red
Zone” (high risk) area by the State Forest Service, and that is the area surrounding
the Town of Saguache, however the east side of the County is also especially at risk
for wildfire. Wildfire hazard areas are also identified on the County’s 1041 (areas of
state interest) maps. As fire does not recognize jurisdictional boundaries, the
County has intergovernmental agreements with federal and state land managers in
the event that a fire event encompasses both public and private lands.

The County last year completed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for the
western side of the County which contained a Master risk assessment and a number
of recommendations to mitigate potential losses. In addition, the County Emergency
Manager disseminates information to property owners County-wide on
precautionary methods to reduce fire risks, as well as ensuring ongoing training for
the County’s fire fighters.

Night Sky Preservation

According to resident surveys, the brilliant clarity of the night sky here is one of the
most consistently and reverently valued features of County life. The current Land
Development Code contains provisions for any necessary lighting to be shielded and

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

directed downward. When we consider what kind of development we would like to

attract, an irrefutable preference exists for activities that do not “light up the night”.


Protect important natural resources of Saguache County, including

water (quantity and quality), air, soils, wildlife habitats and corridors,
prime agricultural lands, open space, scenic vistas and recreational

Pursue measures aimed at protecting and improving the environmental
quality and resources of the County.


Update all County maps to ensure inclusion and detailing of all lands within
the County, with special attention to those areas west of the Continental

Ensure that all applicable standards (local, state and federal) are applied to
existing and future industrial development.

Complete a County Flood Plan to reduce potential property losses.

Actively monitor development, water rights and other activities that may affect
the County’s water resources.

Protect sensitive areas like prime agricultural land, riparian areas, wetlands
and wildlife habitat as the County grows.

Create policies to control the types of businesses allowed in various areas.

Promote educational programs regarding water conservation measures for

residential, agricultural and commercial land uses (sprinklers, EPA shower
reduction devices, low-flow toilet rebates, low water demand landscaping, etc).

Encourage future park and green space areas to use non-potable irrigation

Amend the Land Development Code to adopt standards for development on

slopes and to restrict ridgeline and skyline developments.

Develop and implement a plan for protecting the B1, B2 & B3 conservation
sites profiled in the Colorado Natural Heritage Program’s Closed Basin
Inventory study.

Prepare a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for eastern Saguache County

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009


Encourage environmentally sound methods of using and disposing of

solid and hazardous waste.

Develop programs that educate and encourage residents to reduce, reuse and

Advertise existing drop-off locations for recyclables and pursue options for
increasing recycling.

Educate residents about ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their solid waste.

Encourage composting and mulching of “green” yard waste in cooperation

with the CSU Extension Service.

Monitor waste management practices of mining and agricultural sites

Support and expand the County’s efforts to provide information to residents

which explain the proper use and disposal of common household hazardous

Goals and strategies related to the reduction of fossil fuel use appear in subsequent
sections of the Plan.


Chapter 1: Patterns of Development of the Built Environment

If we are going to fulfill our commitment to plan for sustainability and to County
residents’ call for the protection of agricultural land, open space and wildlife habitat,
we need to consider development patterns. Where do we want growth to occur? Are
there lands that need to be protected? What are they and how can we go about it?

Ironically, the personal tendencies that make people want to move to the “wide open
spaces of the American West” – for example the desire to have no neighbors within
sight - are some of the same that are threatening its existence. In a 2006 report, the
Environment Colorado Policy and Research Center said that between 1960 and
1990, the land area developed into exurban homes and rural ranchettes grew three
times faster than the population growth rate. A primary reason for this is that State
law exempts parcels of 35 acres or more from County subdivision regulations (CRS
30-28-101(10)(b). Absent other regulatory tools, this exemption can impair both the
ability of counties to provide and pay for services and their ability to manage land
use within the county. Two million acres of agricultural land in Colorado was lost in
tracts sized just big enough to avoid subdivision regulation (35 acres) from 1972 to

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

20007. The proliferation of thirty five acre+ “ranchettes” has long been an expressed
concern of Saguache County residents.

Everson Ranch – protected by the Orient Land Trust photo: John Lorenz

Farming and ranching are the primary economic activities of the County. Ranches
in particular require large amounts of land to sustain livestock in an arid climate.
According to the American Farmland Trust (AFT), shifting demographics, sprawling
development and rising land prices all affect the viability of farming and ranching in
the Rocky Mountain region, where more than 350 acres of agricultural land are
converted to development every day. Eleven percent of Rocky Mountain ranchland
is vulnerable to conversion by 20208. Research indicates that rural sprawl has 5 to
10 times the “ecological footprint” (natural resources consumed) of suburban or
urban land use patterns.

The economic ramifications of this type of development are also well documented.
Costs associated with rural sprawl include the cost of building and maintaining
roads and providing emergency services. For every tax dollar they bring in, large lot
rural developments in Colorado represent $1.65 in infrastructure costs7. A 2001
Saguache County study9 demonstrated that residential development costs the
County more than it generates in revenue, and while these expenditures are, in most
places, covered by revenues generated by commercial development, in this County it
is agriculture that is subsidizing the cost of residential development.

“Losing Ground: Colorado’s Vanishing Agricultural Landscape, March 2006
Rocky Mountain Agricultural Landowners Guide to Conservation and Sustainability, 2006
A Revenue/Cost Analysis of Community Service Provision in Saguache County, Colorado, Sept 2001

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Occasionally, 35-acre lots are developed in areas that are completely inaccessible to
fire protection. While the County does inform prospective residents wanting to settle
in remote locations that emergency (fire, ambulance) and road services can not be
promptly provided, this does not realistically eliminate the need to provide them.
The 2004 Picnic Rock fire (north of Ft Collins) provides a sobering example.10

In addition to encouraging Right to Farm regulations, which Saguache County

already has in place, the AFT Guide describes several opportunities that landowners
have to reap financial benefits from their land while protecting and maintaining
ownership of it. These include federal initiatives such as Farm and Ranchland
Protection, Forest Legacy and Grassland Reserve programs; and private options
such as agricultural conservation easements, estate planning and land trusts. The
State of Colorado has a program that allows a tax credit to be taken against state
income taxes by an individual or entity donating a conservation easement. The
State also created the Great Outdoors Colorado Open Space Grant Program (GOCO),
which awards competitive grants for projects that protect and enhance Colorado
wildlife, parks, rivers, trails, open spaces and agricultural land.

Started by a 35-acre lot landowner burning trash on his property without a permit, this fire destroyed more than
9,000 acres of wildlands, 2 structures and caused numerous evacuations. It required 444 firefighting staff and 12
aircraft to contain and extinguish. The total cost of the fire was approximately $2.3 million, of which the county’s
share was around $100,000. Re-vegetation of the burned area will take many years.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

As can be seen from these two

charts, 6% of the existing
houses in the County
consume over 63% of the
residential land. On the other
end of the spectrum, over two
thirds of County dwellings
occupy less than 5% of the
land devoted to residential

Finally, County residents have also expressed a strong interest in preserving

“viewsheds” and the scenic vistas that so characterize one’s experience of the
County. Ensuring that these are protected will require some setbacks and design
guidelines along selected sections of County roadways.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Planning Options
The Saguache County Planning Commission is permitted authorized under CRS 30-
28-111 to adopt a zoning plan, as follows:

“The county planning commission of any county may . . . make a zoning plan
for zoning all or any part of the unincorporated territory within such county . . .
for the regulation by districts or zones of the location, height, bulk, and size of
buildings and other structures, percentage of lot which may be occupied, the size
of lots, courts, and other open spaces, the density and distribution of population,
the location and use of buildings and structures for trade, industry, residence,
recreation, public activities, or other purposes, access to sunlight for solar
energy devices, and the uses of land for trade, industry, recreation, or other

Currently, the unincorporated lands of Saguache County are all zoned agricultural.
The Land Development Code lists permitted uses for the zone, and other uses that
can be permitted conditionally. The County has also adopted what are known as
1041 Regulations that can be applied to Areas and Activities of State Interest, as
defined by State statute (CRS 24-65.1-101). If land being subdivided into 35-acre
lots is in an area designated pursuant to 1041 powers, the county may require
compliance with its 1041 regulations. The 21 categories defined as areas or activities
of state interest include: geological, flood and wildfire hazard areas, historical and
archeological resource areas, and significant wildlife habitats. A local government
can designate specific areas within which to employ its 1041 powers. These are:
• Mineral resource areas
• Natural hazard areas
• Areas containing, or having a significant impact upon, historical, natural, or
archaeological resources of statewide importance; and
• Areas around key facilities11 in which development may have a material effect
upon the key facility or the surrounding community.

Given the dual priority interests of County residents for both preservation of rural
character and protection of open space and for economic development, and the
recent targeting of the San Luis Valley for industrial scale solar development, it may
be timely for the Planning Commission to work out and adopt a zoning plan aimed
at maximizing mutual benefits of all stakeholders. The State Department of Local
Affairs has produced a model Land Use Code that could serve as a resource for
defining and setting parameters for other types of zones.

Accommodate compatible growth while preserving agricultural and range land,
open space and wildlife habitat.

Airports, major facilities of a public utility, interchanges, mass transit facilities

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009


Encourage development that optimizes the use of existing infrastructure and

conserves and protects natural resources.


Collaborate with municipalities to identify urban growth areas within or

adjacent to municipal boundaries.

Ask the Board of County Commissioners to work with state lawmakers to

amend State subdivision laws to enable County review of all subdivisions.

Create an accessible information resource for landowners that highlight the

different programs and options available to assist them in reaping financial
benefit from their land while maintaining ownership and providing natural
resource protections.

Amend the County LDC to stipulate that only dwellings associated with farms
and ranches are a permitted use in the agricultural zone. Other dwellings
would require a conditional use review.

Review the adequacy of 1041 designated areas, and make adjustments as


Initiate a site review process to assist landowners in choosing the best location
on their land for development to avoid natural hazards (flood, wildfire, erosion)
and address emergency response parameters.

Initiate a rural road construction permit for any road accessing a County
maintained road.

Adopt setbacks and site design guidelines in selected areas to enhance and
protect the aesthetic quality of community gateways and other high visibility

Create specific planning areas for high density residential, commercial, mixed
use and industrial developments with an eye to making productive use of
currently non-productive land, optimizing existing infrastructure and
protecting open space, wildlife habitat and agricultural and rangeland.

Encourage greater density residential development to preserve agricultural
lands and open space and to help make housing more affordable.


Encourage the preservation, renovation and creation of housing in existing


Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Review and amend subdivision/PUD regulations to encourage cluster

development, infill and developments that optimize use of existing

Encourage commercial development in identified zones in order to increase
revenue from this sector.

Identify areas where commercial development is desirable.

Create incentives for businesses to locate in these zones.

Chapter 2: Energy & Green Building

Energy is essential to every sector of the economy and community, and the design of
the built environment determines how much energy is used. How energy is obtained
and produced also has major impacts on individual and environmental health.
Electricity generation from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) is the single largest
contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Saguache County encourages the maximum, cost-effective utilization of renewable

energy sources into all new development, as well as retrofitting of existing structures
and systems. The County acknowledges the considerable energy potential that
exists here, and supports the appropriate scale development of renewable energy
sources. However given the costs and environmental impacts of any mode of energy
development, and in keeping with the premise that the most valuable kilowatt or
thermal unit is the one that you don’t need (referred to as “negawatts”), conservation
measures must come before, or at least go hand-in-hand with, the development of
new energy resources.

There are a number of conservation and renewable energy incentive programs that
have been initiated at both state and federal levels. These appear as Appendix C to
this Plan. Colorado’s Governor’s Energy Office ( provides
a wealth of information, programs and partnership opportunities aimed at
maximizing the development of the state’s considerable renewable energy potential.

Current financing systems do not reflect the fact that while the initial investment in
home renewable energy systems are high, the long term benefits far outweigh those
costs. By reducing the upfront costs, we can make clean energy more accessible to
more residents. The County could create a loan program either by using existing
bond potential or by creating improvement districts for investment in renewable
energy, which allows homeowners to re-pay the loan as a special assessment on the
property tax, generally over 20 years. This also means that if a property is sold, the
new owner takes up the repayment responsibility, eliminating the deterrent that a
homeowner faces in making a large initial investment, not knowing if it will be
recoverable in the event of a sale.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Investing in energy efficiency, distributed scale renewable energy production, and

green building practices will reduce our ecological footprint and our emission
contribution to greenhouse gases, increase the reliability of our energy supply,
create jobs, and help keep dollars in our local economy. County policies and
programs can contribute to a more sustainable energy future by:

• increasing energy efficiency and conservation

• prioritizing renewable resources and local production
• promoting green building design and materials

Other renewable energy opportunities are addressed in the Economic Development

section of this Plan.

Increase the energy efficiency of the built environment in Saguache

Energy efficiency must be a consideration for any new structures and
additions to existing structures built in Saguache County.


Create an information and resource manual that informs residents, builders

and developers of the long term cost and environmental benefits of energy
efficient design and lists suppliers and green building consultants (esp. local).

Review existing green building matrices to assess the possibility of adopting

some sustainable building design standards for the County.

Amend development permit applications to include a description of energy

efficient design components and annual projected energy costs for the
proposed construction.

Research and initiate a County-sponsored loan program (insured by the state)

for the installation of renewable energy systems and selected conservation
measures that allows property owners to repay the loans as a special
assessment on their property taxes over a specified period of years.

Create and keep current a resource list for residents that describes all of the
programs (federal, state and local) available to assist them in reducing their
use of fossil fuels.

Ensure that the County is taking maximum advantage of the programs and
assistance available through the Governor’s Energy Office.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

2007 data from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DoLA) puts the number of
housing units in Saguache County at 3756 (1 for every 1.84 people). This number
does not include unfinished houses, of which there are a considerable number.
According to US Census data, new housing units in Saguache County increased at a
rate of 2.8% per year from 2000 - 2007, somewhat faster than the population. This
would seem reasonable except that nearly 25% of all residential units in the County
were unoccupied in 2000 - a very high vacancy rate - which would indicate that
housing supply has continued to outpace demand throughout the period.
Nationwide the vacancy rate is 13.8%, and averages only about 12% in the western
US. However 2000 data indicates that approximately 45% of vacant houses in the
County were owned and retained for recreational or occasional use, reducing the
rate of “unintended” vacancies. At that time, 6% of vacant units were categorized as
for sale and not available for occupancy. While no hard updated data is available,
that number would appear to be higher now. The US Census data leaves over 45%
of vacant units uncategorized and unexplained, so no Master picture of housing
vacancies is currently available.

Just over 69% of occupied housing units are owner-occupied, indicative of the
availability of sufficient (though not necessarily affordable) rental units.

About half the structures in the County were built before 1980, and half since then
(see graph below).

Construction by Decade

Built 1939 or earlier 508

Built 1940-1959 484

Built 1960-1969
Built 1970-1979
Built 1980-1989
Built 1990-1999
Built 2000 -2007

150 200 250 300 400 500 600 700

Affordability 720

In spite of excess supply, housing has become much less affordable for the majority
of County residents over the last decade. An industry standard to understand the
affordability of housing is the relationship between median housing prices and
median household income (MHI). Using the most recent data available, the MHI for
the County in 2007 was $30,19312. The median single family home sales price was

U.S Census data website

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

$140,190 (year end 06), as compared to $73,900 in 2000 when the MHI was
$25,495. So while income increased 18.4% between 2000 and 2007, the data
indicates that the cost of housing increased nearly 90%, which means that home
ownership is less affordable for full time residents now than it was just a few years

This picture may not be quite as bleak as it looks. The number of home sales in the
County is relatively small, so the sale of 2 or 3 high-end vacation homes (of which
there are many) can easily skew the averages. The recent economic downturn has
halted the escalation of housing prices. We do not have data yet on its effect on
incomes. While home ownership may be in reach for more than the small
percentage of County residents that the data above indicates, it does not alter the
conclusion that it is far less affordable than it was a decade ago.

Housing Assistance – Currently there are 15 housing units subsidized under the
federal Section 8 program in Saguache and Crestone and 25 in Center. There is also
a 12 unit HUD public housing complex in Saguache, and another 16 unit complex
that could be Section 8 (only 2 currently are) if the County received more vouchers.
For the purposes of Section 8 or other subsidized housing reimbursement, a fair
market rent for an area is established. The 2008 figure for fair market rent in
Saguache County for a 2 BR unit is $555, including utilities. While this figure may
represent the actual market for some parts of the County (e.g. Center), in others (e.g.
Crestone-Baca), the cost of a 2BR rental with utilities runs 40% to 80% more than
the official FMV rate. This translates into few or no affordable or subsidized rental
units in certain areas. This is confirmed by the Center Housing Authority Director,
who administers Section 8 for the whole County and indicated that there is a need
for about 100 additional subsidized units to meet the true housing needs of
Saguache County residents, and that she receives many requests for assistance
from the more expensive housing markets. Another problem that the Director
reported is that many rental property owners in the lower cost housing markets are
not willing or able to maintain their properties to the standard required for Section 8
participation. Both of these issues pose serious obstacles to the availability of
decent affordable housing for lower income residents.

The standard formula used to determine affordability is 30% of income for either
house payment or rent and utilities. Utility costs vary widely, depending on heating
fuel source and lifestyle. For the purposes of the exercise, an estimated average year
round utility cost of $230/mo. was used, inclusive of heat, electricity and
water/sewer. Applying the 30% rule results in only about 25% of the County’s
residents being able to afford an average single family home at current market rates,
and over half unable to afford to rent.

Energy Efficiency
The less homes cost to heat, power and maintain, the more affordable they are over
time. How to build energy efficient structures has been known for decades and new
technologies (as well as modifications to old ones) continue to increase our ability to
create healthy, low impact shelter. It is the intent of Saguache County to make a
commitment to our future by encouraging the maximum cost effective use of energy
conservation tools and technologies.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Clearly any Master plan needs to embrace the goals of safe, livable environments,
high quality, sustainable future development and a housing mix diversified enough
to meet the actual needs of the County’s residents. Basic tenets of sustainable
development would dictate that the majority of new housing developments would
take place within and adjacent to existing development - to a large extent within the
incorporated areas, and therefore outside the scope of this Plan. Given the needs of
both residents and the environment, the County strongly encourages each
municipality to consider both energy efficiency and affordability when creating new
or rehabilitating existing units, in order to increase the availability of energy efficient
and affordable housing for County residents.

Another long-standing issue is getting completed houses on the tax rolls. There has
historically been a delay of many years, with the resultant loss of justified and much
needed revenue for the County, schools and other special districts. The County Tax
Assessor is currently working to correct this deficiency.

There is currently a housing needs assessment being conducted for the entire San
Luis Valley by the Community Strategies Institute under a contract with the State
Division of Housing. The results of this study should provide relevant data to assist
us in determining appropriate actions to meet the goal of aligning housing resources
with the needs of residents.

Maintain and enhance quality, energy-efficient and affordable residential
environments in Saguache County.

Increase energy conservation and efficiency of Saguache County residences.

Other relevant strategies appear in the Energy & Green Building section)

Identify and maximize use of programs to assist low-income homeowners in

making necessary repairs and increasing the energy efficiency of their homes.

Support efforts to develop low-income and special needs housing in the


Monitor administration of Section 8 housing vouchers to ensure equitable

treatment of County residents under that program.

All new subdivisions and PUD must include a percentage of affordable units.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Identify what types of housing are needed in Saguache County and utilize this
information when reviewing subdivision and PUD proposals.

Effectively participate in the political process to increase the flow of federal

and state housing funds to the County.

Consider utilizing subdivision design standards and financial incentives to

encourage private development of energy-efficient, affordable housing.

Ensure that new developments do not create negative impacts on existing


Require the use of buffer zones, landscaping, berming and other design
techniques to help improve and maintain the integrity of different land uses.

Ensure that any new residential development includes all the additional
infrastructure and utilities, to prevent adverse impacts of growth to current


Saguache County has one US and three State Highways running through it, two
north-south (CO 17 and US 285 and 2 east-west (CO 112 & 114). A segment of US
Highway 50 that runs from Salida to Gunnison also dips down into the County from
the north. The Colorado Department of Transportation provides a myriad of data
associated with state highways, including geometries and surface conditions. Most
sections of all State Highways that run through the County are listed as in poor or
fair condition by the CDOT.

CDOT divides the State into a number of regions for the purposes of transportation
planning. The San Luis Valley region (SLV TPR) also includes Chaffee County. A
Master plan for this region through the year 2035 was published in January 2008.
The planning process uncovered a series of key issues and trends:
• System preservation is the primary need
• The plan should address safety and congestion throughout the region
• A desire for multi-modal connections has been identified; and
• Individual corridors of high importance should receive priority attention.

Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the above cited Plan is the extraordinary
gap between what is needed and the level of funding that (at that time) was
anticipated. While the “Vision Plan” – what it would take to optimally meet the
transportation goals and needs of the region - carried a price tag of $2.65 billion
between 2008-2035, the amount that was allocated to the region was $25 million for

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

the period. It should therefore come as no surprise that no Saguache County sites
were on the improvements priority list that resulted from that study.
“the TPR will expect to see little additional major construction work in the near term due to
equally important needs elsewhere, unless additional funds are forthcoming. While CDOT
will continue to address safety, bridge and resurfacing needs on many of the region’s highways,
other major work will have to wait for the funding scenario to improve. As a result,
congestion will continue to deteriorate in spot locations on US 160, US 285 and US24 and
throughout the TPR. Many of the region’s highways will continue to operate without adequate
shoulders providing challenges to the trucking industry and cyclists as well as leaving some
safety concerns unaddressed. Surface conditions are expected to deteriorate over time.”

It is noted that with the change of administration a year after this report was
published, additional revenues for basic infrastructure improvements may well be

Already there is one Saguache County project that has been allocated funding
received by the state as part of by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the
“stimulus package”) passed by Congress in February of this year (2009). This is the
resurfacing of 8 miles of Highway 285 south of the Town of Saguache. The
estimated cost of the project is $6.7 million.

Average Daily Traffic Data

As part of the planning process Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) was collected
for state highways at specified locations, and the data used to project 2035 counts.
The AADT represents the annual average daily traffic count for a given segment
(total of all vehicles in a year divided by 365 days). The Figure below displays 2005
data. The number of miles of roadway that carry over 10,000 vehicles a day is
projected to increase from 11 (2005) to 39 in 2035, though none of those segments
is located in Saguache County.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Local Roadway

The County contains 898 miles of Highway Users Tax eligible roads that are
maintained by the County, 498 that are classified as arterial or collector (though
some of these are gravel) and 400 that are classified as local roads. There are 202
miles of (non-HUT) roads that are maintained by others and177 miles that are not
maintained. Local roadway count data has not been gathered, however the Road
and Bridge Department does have the capability to do traffic counts on local roads if

Clearly in a large, sparsely populated County with extreme weather conditions, road
maintenance will be both an ongoing challenge and a major County expense. Snow
removal is performed on all County roads that have inhabitants, with school bus
routes having the highest priority. The Road and Bridge Department employs 26 full
time equivalent (FTE) positions, and contracts for some snow removal work in
remote areas. The 2008 County road budget totaled $2,560,000. This year (2009)
the County expects to receive significant additional Federal funding from the Secure
Rural Schools Act, which was passed several years ago by the US Congress but
never funded. In October 2008 Congress voted to fund the bill through 2011, which

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

will bring about $2.4 million in additional funds into the County. Pending state
legislation will likely determine the percentage of those funds that will go to roads.
The additional funds are anticipated to be used for extending pavement in select
areas and one time equipment purchases and upgrades.

Though the whole idea of transit options appears almost irrelevant in a large, rural
and sparsely populated County, there are a number of reasons to address it in this
Plan. One is that there are populations who are dependent on transit services - in
the 2008 community survey, 86% of respondents said it was important to provide
vanpools or other senior transportation services. Another relates to our overarching
goal of sustainability - which single occupancy vehicle trips do not reflect. A third is
that the recent SLV RTP looked at transit needs and possibilities in some depth. All
of the information in the following section is derived from the 2008 SLV RTP carried
out for the CDOT.

Demand for transit services in rural areas and for the elderly or disabled population
has always been hard to estimate. The RTP used the Transit Cooperative Research
Program (TCRP) Project A-3: Rural Transit Demand Estimation Techniques - the first
substantial research into the demand for transit service in rural areas and small
communities since the early 1980s. The TCRP analysis procedure considers transit
demand in two major categories:
• “program demand”, which is generated by transit ridership to and from
specific social service programs; and
• “non-program demand”, which is generated by the other mobility needs of the
elderly, disabled, and low-income population, e.g. shopping, employment, and
medical trips.

Mobility Gap - Mobility gap refers to the amount of service that would be required
in order to provide equal mobility to persons in households without a vehicle as for
those in households with a vehicle. It does not reflect actual current demand for
transit services. In very abbreviated form, the results of the transit needs
assessment for the SLV TPR indicated that:

• Approximately 1.6 million annual one-way passenger-trips for the SLV TPR are
needed, and
• 90 percent of the need is not being met.

Current Transit Providers – Fortunately, there are two agencies that currently
provide transit services to specific populations in the County. These are:

Tri-County Senior Citizens and Housing, Inc.- a private nonprofit agency based in
Monte Vista that serves the social, recreational, and housing needs of the elderly in
Rio Grande, Saguache, and Mineral Counties. The agency provides demand-
responsive, door-to-door transportation for seniors to congregate meal sites,
essential daily living activities (medical appointments, shopping, etc.), and social
and educational events. Van service is provided four days a week—Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. An extensive schedule of trips from the outlying
towns of Creede, South Fork, Saguache, Center, and Crestone to activities in the

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

larger towns is provided. Reservations are required and trips are subject to
cancellation in the event of an insufficient number of passengers or due to adverse
weather conditions. Most suggested donations between the towns are $3.50 per

Blue Peaks Development Service, Inc. – is a private nonprofit organization providing

services for developmentally disabled persons within the SLV TPR. The agency
provides restricted fixed-route and demand-responsive transportation for Blue Peaks
clients only.

Saguache County is not currently in a position to play a role in providing transit

services to County residents. However we should monitor the situation and watch
for opportunities to participate in expanded regional initiatives as they arise.

Airports contribute to a region’s mobility and access to services as well as helping to support
economic activity. There are 2 airports in the County, the Leach airport near Center
and Saguache Municipal airport. Leach airport is located 4 miles NE of the Town of
Center and is used primarily for agricultural purposes. The County owns the airstrip
there, but currently has no plans for improvements. The County completed a
professional study and plan for the Saguache Municipal airport in June of 200613.


Provide and maintain a roadway network which meets the access needs of
the County in a safe, economical, ecological and efficient manner.

Initiate an emphasis on preventive maintenance of County roads.

Complete a prioritized needs assessment for County roads.

Design and construct County road projects in a manner that minimizes

negative impacts to water quality and sensitive environmental areas.

Encourage new and expanded partnerships with the State to encourage that
the roads within Saguache County are properly maintained.

Actively pursue State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds

through the involvement of both staff and elected officials in the prioritization


Ensure that new development mitigates its proportional share of impacts on

the existing transportation infrastructure.

Saguache Municipal Airport Study, Airport Development Group, Denver, CO, June 2006

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Ensure that the transportation impacts of new development are integrated
into the review and approval process.

Support alternative modes of transportation


Encourage municipalities to designate bicycle lanes and pedestrian pathways

in select areas where these would help to facilitate cycling and walking.

Consider the provision of separate bicycle-pedestrian paths in the design of

future developments, open spaces, drainage ways and railroad beds.

Monitor opportunities for participation in regional public transportation


Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from County vehicles.

Explore feasibility and options for converting the County fleet to bio-diesel.


Promote the Saguache County Airport as a community resource.


Continue efforts to increase awareness of and use of the airport.

Implement the recommendations outlined in the 2006 airport study.


As well as being a registered historic building, the Saguache County Courthouse,
located in the Town of Saguache, houses the administrative offices of the County:
Administrator, Clerk, Treasurer, Land Use, Tax Assessor as well as the court. The
Sheriff’s office and jail facilities are conveniently located in an adjacent building, and
down the street are Social Services, Public Health and Veterans Affairs. There are
additional County administrative offices in the Town of Center.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Landfill and Recycling Center

Overseen by the Road and Bridge Department, the Saguache County Landfill
employs 2 people full time. The annual budget alternates between $106,500 and
$150,000, as about every other year a new area has to be opened up. Revenue from
disposal fees are around $80,000 annually, and from recycling about $2500. A
volunteer from ScSEED is currently working with the Road and Bridge supervisor to
research ways to make the recycling program more sustainable, including seeking
grant funding for a new baler and possible shelter for paper and cardboard that is
awaiting baling and purchase. ScSEED is also working actively with the County’s
school systems to both increase awareness about the importance of recycling, as
well as to ensure that the maximum amount of materials that can be recycled in the
County are. Recycling (like so many issues in rural counties) presents economy of
scale challenges. Having more material, properly bundled, increases markets and
the price paid, however if an adequate amount is not recycled, the drop-off facility
can’t afford the equipment and shelter necessary manage the material effectively.

Storm water plan and floodplain mitigation

While FEMA mapping has been done, the County currently does not have a storm
water management and flood mitigation plan in place. Key County personnel are
scheduled to attend training on this topic, after which the Planning Commission
anticipates that this important gap in our Plan will be remedied.


Water and Sanitation

Water and sanitation in the unincorporated territory of the County is provided

almost exclusively by private wells and septic systems. Exceptions to this are the
Baca Grande Water and Sanitation District, which serves the mountain portion
(Chalets) of the Baca Grande subdivision and Lazy K-V Estates subdivision which
has a water system. The former is under the jurisdiction of the Crestone-Baca
Planning Commission and its attendant Master Plan.

Gas and Electricity

Xcel Energy and Center Municipal Light & Power are distributors of both electric
and natural gas energy. The San Luis Valley and Gunnison Rural Electric
Cooperatives distribute electricity only. Xcel Energy’s territory covers most of the
larger cities and towns; the SLV REC serves South Fork, Crestone, Creede and a
large portion of the unincorporated areas; the Gunnison REC the northwest corner
of the County and Center Municipal its own town. All of these entities purchase
power from Tri-State Generation & Transmission.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a wholesale electric power

supplier owned by the 44 electric cooperatives that it serves. Tri-State generates
and transports electricity to its member systems throughout a 250,000 square mile
service territory that includes parts of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

X-Cel Energy Corporation operates in 8 states and serves 3.3 million electricity
and 1.8 million natural gas customers. The Public Service Company of Colorado is
one of its subsidiaries. While its primary sources of electrical generation are coal,
natural gas and nuclear, Xcel has also issued several requests for proposals (RFPs)
for renewable energy generation, in order to meet State-mandated renewable energy
portfolio standards of 20% by 2020. It is one of these RFPs that is generating the
significant interest of solar developers in the San Luis Valley, including Saguache

Currently, most energy in the county is imported. The San Luis Valley as a whole is
vulnerable to supply disruptions during peak load periods in the summer months.
Eighty two percent (82%) of the Valley’s peak load (about 120MW, consistently since
1994) is agriculture-related14.


FairPoint Communications, Inc., CenturyTel and Qwest are the providers for “land
line” telephone services throughout the San Luis Valley. Available are: local and
long distance voice, data, internet, television and broadband. Direct TV, Dish
Network and local cable companies also provide television services.

Cellular providers in the County are Verizon, All-Tel and AT&T. Wild Blue, Hughes
and Ridgeview Telecommunications provide satellite phone and internet services.

Because of the “bowl-like” nature of the County, with high mountains on all sides,
both cellular and high speed internet services here have significant reliability issues.
This shortcoming has been highlighted repeatedly as a significant obstacle to

Emergency Services

There are three ambulance districts in the County (see map in atlas); and 10 EMS
transport services in the San Luis Valley. Most EMS agencies are staffed with
volunteers, who provide pre-hospital services 24/7, 365 days a year. There is no
hospital in the County, however there are 3 Level IV designated trauma centers in
the San Luis Valley and one in Salida.

The County is serviced by 4 different fire protection districts, as shown below. The
La Garita area (west of Center) is currently in the process of forming a district. The
districts all have mutual aid agreements with other neighboring districts and
relationships/agreements are being forged with the USFS/BLM on areas of mutual
concern. If a fire occurs in an area not included in a district, nearby districts will
still respond, but have the option of billing for the costs associated with that
response, since no assessments are being contributed by property owners in those

San Luis Valley Electric System Improvement Project Alternative Evaluation and Macro Corridor Study,
pg. 3-1, June 2008

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

County Sheriff
The Sheriff Department reports an adequate staffing level for the current demand.
There are 21 jail beds that hold an average daily population of 14. The
administration building is crowded. Any additional need for administrative
personnel will require more office space.

Capital Improvements Plan

In order to appropriately apply impact fees for new development, the County must
have a Capital Improvements Plan (CIP). Such a plan identifies the capital
investment needs that are associated with obsolescence – those that will be required
to maintain existing levels of service to current residents. It anticipates the growth
thresholds at which additional facilities (i.e. office space, jail cells, etc.) will be
needed to provide the existing level of service to future residents based on projected
growth rates, to prevent County services from being unexpectedly overwhelmed by
increased demands associated with growth. Thirdly it allows planning for additional
facilities and improvements based on expressed needs and desires of County
residents. Work has begun on a 5 year capital improvements plan.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009


The County will be responsible for funding public improvements necessitated

by obsolescence, changes in County goals, or to meet longstanding needs in
the County infrastructure.


Complete the five year capital improvement program.

Development impact fees may be established to help pay for facilities and/or
improvements necessitated by growth.

Expand communication facilities, such as EMS, E911, and initiate radio

stations in order to facilitate intercommunity communication.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009



While Saguache County does not have a formal economic development office yet,
there is interest in encouraging appropriate economic development within the
County. During the most recent public forums held as part of the Master Plan
process, economic development emerged as the 2nd most important concern of
participating County residents, who voiced a clear need for the County to encourage
economic activities that can ensure economic stability for residents and that are
consistent with community values. Interestingly, providing incentives for economic
development was second only to preserving open space and wildlife habitat, which
speaks to a clear need for an economic development plan that does not threaten
what a majority of County residents hold most dear.

According to 2007 US Census data, 30.6% of people in Saguache County live in

poverty. The statistic for children is 45.6%. National comparisons are 12.5% and
18% respectively, and for Colorado, 11.5%/15.3%. Many residents will quickly point
out that this is by choice – there is a significant percentage of the population who
embrace voluntary simplicity as a conscious choice, and willingly trade higher
incomes for the quality of life attributes afforded by the county that money can’t
buy. These are people who do not feel poor or “deprived” because of where they fall
in a national statistical analysis. That said, the fact remains that Saguache County
has historically been one of the poorest counties in Colorado, and one of the poorest
in the entire nation, and many residents have expressed the desire for expanded
opportunities for meaningful employment at wages that move them in the direction
of economic prosperity.

Organizations Involved in Economic Development

ScSEED - The grassroots non-profit organization ScSEED (Saguache County

Sustainable Environment and Economic Development initiative) is a volunteer group
of citizens whose purpose is to work together as a community to develop a
sustainable economy that builds on our existing strengths, contributes to a strong
integrated community, and protects the environment, rural lifestyle and the
character of Saguache County.

Saguache County Tourism Council - The SCTC functions as the working

committee under the Saguache Lodging Tax Board, which is also the Saguache
Board of County Commissioners. The funding for the Council comes from the 1%
lodging tax levied when a visitor stays at any motel, B&B or campground in the
County. This nets approximately $10,000 in annual revenue, which by statute is to
be spent on increasing the number of people visiting the County. The Council
therefore grants 25% of the funds to local events to advertise to out of county
tourists. The remaining 75% goes into promoting Saguache County in the greater
Valley, state and beyond.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

SCTC has created partnerships with the ScSEED, Saguache County Business
Association, Saguache Chamber of Commerce, and San Luis Valley Tourism
Association. These cooperative efforts pool resources, allowing advertising dollars to
reach further, including a map and ad in the Colorado Official Tourism Guide.

San Luis Valley Development Resources Group is a Colorado nonprofit

corporation. The SLV DRG promotes both economic and community-self
development projects, administering both the Colorado State Enterprise Zone
Program and the Revolving Loan Fund.

Saguache County Business Association’s primary task is the publication of a local

area guide to Saguache County businesses.

Saguache County Credit Union is an active participant in Community

Development, seeking funding to invest in programs, businesses, homes and
activities that enrich the lives of County residents.

Colorado Small Business Development Council – has a San Luis Valley office that
serves the 6 counties of the SLV. Offerings include free one-on-one counseling
services in the areas of business research and marketing, new business feasibility
analysis, business plan preparation, finance packaging and other small business
topics. They offer workshops and seminars for business owners and act as
information clearing houses. Some local offices specialize in international trade,
government procurement, manufacturing, home-based business and technology
resources. The SBDC receives inputs from the SBDC State Advisory Board.

Villa Grove Area Merchants Association - Founded in 1987 to recognize and

promote the business community of this area, this not-for profit organization has
expanded its role to also provide a forum for relevant public issues. Monthly
meetings are designed to promote a sense of community through hosting by different
members and featuring specialty-themed potlucks.

Sales Tax
The County currently imposes a 1% sales tax and no use tax. There have been three
efforts in the last decade to pass a use tax, but voters have defeated it each time. If
we want to encourage historic and recreational tourism as part of our economic
development plan, an increased sales tax could become an important source of
revenue. Of the 29 counties in Colorado that impose a use tax (applied to motor
vehicles and building materials), the average rate is 1.34%. Of the 54 counties that
impose a sales tax, the average rate is 1.7%.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Employment Statistics
Sources on County employment gave conflicting data. Some of what was available
appears below.

The 2nd quarter 2008 average weekly wage for the County was $477, $11.93 per
hour, $24,804 annualized, assuming a year round 40 hour work week. The March
09 unemployment rate for the County was 9.4%. The annualized figure for 2008
was 7.3%.

Estimated total jobs (FT & PT) 07 3057

Private, non-farm employment 870
Wage & Salary Jobs 1873
Labor Force (2006) 3234
Labor Force (March 09) 2906
Unemployment rate (06) 6.3%
Unemployment rate (08) 7.3%
Unemployment rate (March 09) 9.4%
Note: Employment based on ES-202 reports by place of work for wage and salary workers covered by Colorado's U.I.
Law. Employed persons are counted only once, regardless of the number of jobs held. Does not include proprietors.

Industries Currently in Saguache County

It is interesting to consider from both quality of life and sustainability perspectives is

where people work relative to where they live. The table below has 2 sections. The
first is where people who work in Saguache County live and the second is where
people who live in Saguache County work. The data raises the question of whether
some adjustments (e.g. job swaps) might be possible to reduce commuting time and

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Residence County Workplace County Count Percent

Saguache Co. Saguache Co. 1,655 82.3%

Rio Grande Co. Saguache Co. 163 8.1%

Alamosa Co. Saguache Co. 156 7.76%

Costilla Co. Saguache Co. 21 1.0%

Arapahoe Co. Saguache Co. 14 .7%

Prowers Co. Saguache Co. 1 -

TOTAL Saguache Co. 2,010 100%

Saguache Co. Saguache Co. 1,655 68.6%

Saguache Co. Rio Grande Co. 406 16.8%

Saguache Co. Alamosa Co. 146 6.1%

Saguache Co. Chaffee Co. 80 3.3%

Saguache Co. Gunnison Co. 48 2.0%

Saguache Co. All other counties 77 3.2%

TOTAL 2412 100%

Increased Economic Opportunities – What, Where and How?

Agriculture-related businesses and value-added ag businesses are naturals for

Saguache County. There have been a few attempts in this arena in the past, but no
lasting development. The reasons for the lack of success could be further analyzed
in an effort to promote greater success for future endeavors.

There has been some long-term interest in developing non-polluting, neighbor-

friendly, light-industrial and commercial business at the Saguache Municipal
Airport. The County received a planning grant from the State in 2006 to assist in
the decision-making process for this airport.

Recently completed (Sept 08) was a Targeted Industry Study (TIS) for the San Luis
Valley15, funded in part by the SLV Development Resources Group. The study includes
recommendations for the Valley as a whole, and also specific recommendations for

San Luis Valley Targeted Industry Study, Rupri Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, August 25, 2008

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

counties. The following sections are comprised predominantly of information taken

from this Study.

According to the study, priorities for Saguache County were: agriculture, solar energy
development, tourism and “place-based development”, which is defined as follows:

“Borrowing from decades of urban renewal experience, place-based

development focuses on localized development assets and strategies to
grow unique micro economies. The San Luis Valley is comprised of dozens
of communities with special histories and developing niche economies.
Place-based development is a strategy to support and enhance the unique
qualities of local communities.”

For Saguache County, some examples of place-based development would be:

• the spiritual centers adjacent to Crestone, at the foot of the most rugged
terrain of the Sangre de Cristos, were highlighted as an example of a unique
attribute of a place that could provide place-specific economic development
opportunities. The Baca Ranch was added as a National Wildlife Refuge to
the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in recent years, and there
is a north entrance to the Park located at the southern border of the Baca.
There are many healing therapies available in the area as well. Crestone-
Baca could be a good location for a spa.
• Saguache (town) is highlighted this year on the State’s “most endangered
historic place” list, and preservation and revitalization funds will be received
to help reclaim the beautifully historic nature of this town. The County
Courthouse is located in the Town of Saguache, which also has a museum
and library and serves as a gateway to the San Luis Valley from the
Continental Divide to the west.
• The Town of Center is a busy potato shipping and warehousing locus of
activity with San Luis Central freight service. It also has agricultural
treatment facilities currently supporting a vegetable processing plant, and
farm worker housing.
• Near Villa Grove there are two hot springs resorts located off CO 17, which
has a number of “roadside attractions” for weary travelers needing

The TIS also identified a number of manufacturing industries that, according to the
research, offer high wages, fit with the Valley’s workforce, could make a meaningful
contribution to the Valley’s tax base and also had shown some tendency to locate in
rural areas in the Western United States. These include:
• Food processing associated with high altitude agriculture
• Artisan manufacturing
• Medical equipment and supplies, and
• other transportation equipment.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

These industries were found to have potential to fit with the labor, transportation,
and other resources found within the San Luis Valley. Further elaboration of these
opportunities follows.

Value Added Agricultural Activities - The value of agricultural production in the

San Luis Valley increased from $218 million in 1997 to an estimated $400 million in
2006. However, increasing transportation costs will cause restructuring in supply
and distribution chains. Developing niche products with higher levels of local value
will be an important development strategy.

There are two primary markets for agricultural output today -- mass markets and
niche markets. Mass markets demand large volumes at the cheapest possible prices.
Niche markets are associated more with food quality and safety. More affluent and
concerned consumers are seeking less processed and higher quality safe food. These
consumers want to know where their food comes from and they are often willing to
pay premium prices.

High Altitude Agriculture - There is ample evidence that the unique combination of
soils, irrigation and solar energy at these altitudes contributes to genuine qualities
in what the Valley produces. For example, alfalfa tends to contain more protein per
ton than alfalfa grown at lower altitudes; carrots have significantly higher levels of
beta-carotene. The Valley has a clear opportunity to create unique regional brand
identity, and to market the region based on these qualities.

Agriculture’s Development Considerations - The Valley knows agriculture and

has a strong sense of the direction it needs to head to remain competitive and
prosperous. But challenges are involved with moving from a commodity based
agricultural system to more of a “new generation niche market” system. This is a
new way of doing business where entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ventures will
be critical in connecting producers and processors with niche markets. Developing
these entrepreneurial abilities within the Valley is key to the success of this
development opportunity.

Artisan manufacturing was identified as a high-wage, high-skill manufacturing

headquarters function that is well suited to rural areas. Artisan manufacturers
generally control and manage a supply chain located throughout the nation or
world, and locate supply management and design functions at a headquarters
location. The headquarters location as a consequence is “footloose”, and not tied to
traditional requirements for large scale production facilities such as the need for a
large labor force, or highway transportation. Artisan manufacturers can locate their
headquarters based on the availability and requirements of the entrepreneur and
their high skilled management and design team. Quality of life is often a key
consideration in location, and artisan manufacturers have been found to cluster in
relatively rural areas with a unique quality of life.

While the above may represent a long term growth opportunity for the County, we
currently have a number of small-scale local artisans that require micro-business
start-up and marketing assistance.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Medical Equipment and Supplies and Other Transportation Equipment were

identified among the high growth manufacturing industries for the United States
over the next decade. Output in these industries is expected to expand by 52% to
68% over the 10-year period. Each industry offers high wages (approximately
$25/hour) and makes a significant contribution to the property tax base. Thus, each
has substantial potential for growth and each is worth pursuing in terms of what it
would provide to the regional economy.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing was identified as another industry with high

projected growth and good wages, however it was not found to have been locating in
non-metropolitan regions. A segment of the pharmaceutical industry may be well
suited to the Valley though. In particular, it was found that there may be
pharmaceutical spin-offs from growing crops at high altitudes. For example, there is
a spike in antioxidants in potatoes grown in the region. Such characteristics of crops
grown at high altitude in the Valley may be well suited for botanicals, that is, the
portion of the pharmaceutical industry that processes natural plants into medicines.
A list of the specific industries among the studies selected manufacturing targets
• Artisan Manufacturing
• Medical Equipment and Supplies
- Laboratory Apparatus and Furniture
- Surgical and Medical Instruments
- Dental Equipment and Supplies
- Ophthalmic Goods
- Dental laboratories
• Other Transportation Equipment
- Motorcycle, bicycle, and parts
- All other transportation equipment
• Pharmaceuticals
- Botanical Manufacturing

Selected Manufacturing Development Implications

Workforce Considerations
Most of the establishments in these selected manufacturing industries employ
anywhere from a handful to several dozen workers. Large establishments are
unusual. The scale of the workforce requirement therefore is consistent with the size
of the Valley workforce. Most blue collar job requirements are in titles such as
assemblers, technicians or cutters. These are moderate skill occupations. According
to the U.S. Department of Labor data, most require just a few months to a year of
training alongside an experienced employee. These industries should be able to
utilize the current SLV workforce.

Site Considerations
Production in the selected industries is of a modest scale, and the industries are not
heavy users of utilities such as electricity, natural gas, and water. Therefore
significant new site requirements would not be anticipated. However, improvements
in local high speed internet, cell phone service and air service would be required to

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

support artisan manufacturers. These industries by and large do not require that an
interstate highway be present in a region.

Supply and Distribution Needs

Beyond access to land, these operations tend to be “turn key”, requiring very little
from the local economy or community. Parts and supplies as well as manufacturing
equipment will be manufactured externally.

Community Impact Considerations

Dramatic changes in the number of people or workers related to the development of
these industries was not anticipated, consequently, community impacts on housing,
infrastructure, or the environment are anticipated to be incremental and modest.
Additional demand for services and infrastructure will need to be projected and
weighed against anticipated additional revenues. The need for impact fees for new
development will be assessed on an individual basis as actual development
proposals are submitted. Wherever employment opportunities are created, thought
and care should be given to relevant transportation, noise and waste management

An Eye to Self-Sufficiency - Another avenue to explore is how we can promote

businesses that would provide goods and services that are not currently available
in our communities.

Renewable Energy Development

At this writing, the San Luis Valley is the top-rated target for large scale solar energy
development in Colorado, and the 5th ranked site in the nation. Other renewable
energy sources that could potentially be developed include wind, geothermal,
biomass and hydroelectric. It has been speculated that natural gas resources may
also underlie parts of Saguache County.

In March 2009 Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar signed a new Secretarial
Order encouraging renewable energy development on public lands and establishing
a new Departmental Task Force on Energy and Climate Change. The objective of the
Task Force is to identify areas on our public lands that are best suited for renewable
energy production and transmission, and establish best management practices to
ensure “the most environmentally responsible development and delivery of
renewable energy.” Given Saguache County’s location in one of the highest solar
insolation areas in the U.S., and the fact that the county is comprised of over 70%
public land, such an order could be expected to result in significant development of
our solar resources.

To the maximum extent feasible, new energy development will be required to utilize
existing infrastructure, be sited to ensure minimal negative impacts to wildlife
habitat, viewsheds, recreational activities and ongoing agricultural operations. In
addition, any energy development that poses a significant threat to the underlying
aquifers will be stringently regulated and/or restricted. The Planning Commission

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

has completed and recommended solar development regulations for the County that
are in the process of being reviewed by the Board of County Commissioners.

Currently there is significant competition among solar developers to be the first big
project approved in the San Luis Valley, because existing transmission
infrastructure out of the Valley can only accommodate one major project.
Subsequent development will have to await the construction of additional

Distributed Generation

This . . .

or this?

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

While Saguache County is highly supportive of renewable energy development, we

are aware of the current national debate and research that clearly points to a
distributed model (rooftop, site-based, and municipal scale) of renewable energy
development as the most ecological, economically and socially beneficial, lowest risk
(in terms of both investment and national security issues) and the fastest way to get
renewable on line and in use, lowering our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels
in general. In Colorado, residential renewable energy businesses have tripled in just
over 3 years16. As we install clean energy in more homes and businesses, this
industry will create more high-paying jobs for the Colorado economy. The County
should explore ways to develop our significant renewable energy resources in a
manner that maximizes benefits to County and other San Luis Valley residents.

The County supports the creation of the San Luis Valley Power Authority currently
undergoing a feasibility study.

Biomass and Biofuel17

Biomass technologies include numerous ways of using organic matter to directly
generate power, heat, be processed into fuels, or converted to organically derived
chemicals and other materials. Since many types of organic matter is constantly
renewed, biomass processes offer the benefit of generating oxygen while growing,
and their combustion or conversion generates much less carbon and toxins than
conventional fossil fuels.

Biomass sources include agricultural food and feed crops, crop waste and residues,
wood wastes and residues, dedicated energy crops and trees, aquatic plants, animal
wastes, and municipal wastes. Recent tax incentives have made forest residues,
agricultural residues, and energy crops more economic for energy use than they
were previously.

Forest residues include underutilized logging residues, imperfect commercial trees,

dead wood, and other non-commercial trees that need to be thinned from crowded,
unhealthy, fire-prone forests. Because of their sparseness and remote location, these
residues are usually more expensive to recover than urban and mill residues.

Governor’s Energy Office website
Excerpted (in edited form)from Colorado Renewable Energy Society website

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Agricultural residues are the biomass materials remaining after harvesting

agricultural crops. These residues include wheat straw, corn stover (leaves, stalks,
and cobs), orchard trimmings, etc. Due to the high costs for recovering most
agricultural residues, they are not yet widely used for energy purposes; however,
they can offer a sizeable biomass resource if supply infrastructures are developed to
economically recover and deliver them to energy facilities.

Energy crops are crops developed and grown specifically for fuel. These crops are
carefully selected to be fast growing, drought and pest resistant, and readily
harvested alternative crops. Energy crops include fast-growing trees, shrubs, and
grasses. In addition to environmental benefits, energy crops can provide income
benefits for farmers and rural landowners.

Key elements in making biomass technologies commercially and economically

feasible involve details of collection, handling, and distribution of resources to
processing plants.

Biofuel Resources - In general, current U.S. ethanol production is based largely on

the starch in kernels of field corn, the nation's largest agricultural crop. Any starch
or sugar crop, however, can now be used to make ethanol.

As increased commercialization of advanced bio-ethanol technology occurs, vast

additional resources will become increasingly available to supplement ethanol
production from corn kernels. Advanced bio-ethanol technology plants will likely use
"opportunity" feedstocks such as paper mill or food processing wastes from
concentrated sources that currently have low value or are treated as waste.
However there is also the possibility to make ethanol from agricultural residues such
as corn stover (roughly equivalent in mass to the corn grain crop), or forestry
residues such as from lumber mills or from forest thinning to reduce fire danger
near urban areas. In the future, ethanol could be made from dedicated energy crops
of fast-growing trees and grasses.

Current U.S. bio-diesel production is based largely on oil from soybeans and
recycled restaurant cooking oils. Both of these are currently in surplus and bio-
diesel production uses only a very minor fraction of available supply. Any animal fat
or vegetable oil can be used to make bio-diesel. As described previously, in the San
Luis Valley, bio-diesel is already in production using canola and sunflower seed
grown specifically for the purpose. The production process also results in a high
nutrient animal feed.

In 2009 a Biomass & By-product Business Innovation Competition being co-

sponsored by ScSEED and the San Luis Valley Development Resources Group. The
winner of the Innovation Competition will receive a venture capital grant (between
$2,500 - $5,000), professional assistance and marketing package.

The Saguache County Tourism Board enthusiasts to the Valley. Given the
is participating in Valley-wide efforts wealth of potential “destinations” –
to attract tourists and outdoor National Forest and designated

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

wilderness areas, stunning natural

beauty and recreational opportunities,
wildlife, hunting and fishing, historic
sites, hot springs, spiritual and
healing centers, art and artisans,
sustainable architecture and energy,
music, historic rail and even hot air

Ballooning, the San Luis Valley and western mountain areas have great appeal for
those wanting a vacation that is healthful and enriching as well as fun. Combining
our efforts and resources with other Valley counties will enable a greater outreach.

Use of advertising in major business publications, as well as professional

publications and trade journals, could be successful in marketing the County as a
place to visit and vacation.

Resource Extraction and Development

Mineral extraction in Saguache County has historically risen and fallen with both
domestic and world-wide markets. The Colorado Geologic Survey, Department of
Natural Resources produces annual summaries and field production data regarding
oil and gas production for the entire state, including county-level production
summaries. However Saguache County has very limited geographic information
regarding resource extraction. As this data becomes available it should be inserted
into this document, and changes in policy, if necessary, should be implemented.

Impact Fees
A strong concern consistently expressed in community input surveys is that
development pay its own way and not negatively impact the level of existing services.
Impact fees for infrastructure and service expansion will be considered on a case-by-
case basis as part of the development proposal review process. The County is in the
process of creating a Capital Improvement Plan to serve as one basis for these fees.

Develop a diversified and stable economic base that provides Saguache
County residents with a variety of opportunities for meaningful
employment that provides life-enhancing remuneration.

Support a business environment that encourages existing businesses and
industries to remain in Saguache County, grow, and continue to be
successful while providing benefits to the County and its citizens.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Create a more dynamic partnership with the CSU Field Station located in the
Valley, in support of agricultural product and market development and a local
agriculture network.

Assemble a package of information on technical and financial assistance and

incentives available to building and business owners, such as low-interest
loans and federal/state historic rehabilitation investment tax credits and

Continue to pursue efforts to develop mutually beneficial and cooperative

relationships between the County, existing businesses and related

Encourage and support cross-marketing opportunities.

Initiate and support economic development programs which identify and
recruit activities that provide a living wage, increase sales and property tax
revenue, and are environmentally responsible to locate in Saguache County.


Initiate efforts to modernize and improve telecommunication services

available to County businesses.

Take advantage of recent market research, and expand this effort if

necessary, to identify opportunities to develop Saguache County assets to
local advantage and link them to larger markets.

Recruit specific businesses that represent “top prospects” for the County.

Assess the feasibility of profitable biomass industries within the County.

Assess opportunities provided by the 2009 “stimulus package” (American

Recovery and Reinvestment Act) to build long-term local enterprises.

Provide entrepreneurship training to County residents, particularly for

developing agricultural niche markets and for our young adults.

Periodically assess the effectiveness of partnership efforts among economic

and community development entities. Implement changes to strengthen
these efforts if necessary to ensure success.

Emphasize improvement of amenities that make Saguache County a desirable

place to live and do business, including quality of life and access to
recreational opportunities.

Consider offering incentives to businesses who may be looking to locate in

Saguache County, consistent with the County’s economic development foci.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Consider development impacts on quality of life, i.e. public safety, housing,

education, utility services, etc. when recruiting new businesses, and develop
a set of target businesses that are consistent with the adopted Master Plan.


Pursue renewable energy resource development in a manner that provides

maximum benefits to local residents.

Pursue passage of a statewide renewable energy production tax that will
provide a source of revenue for areas impacted by renewable energy

Partner with ScSEED, the GEO and local RE businesses to research the
training needed for long term, well-paid jobs in energy conservation, solar
energy production and other renewable energy, and provide this to County
high schools and employment agencies.

Partner with Adams State, Western State, Trinidad and Colorado Colleges to
find funding for and create a training program for energy conservation and RE

Increase revenue from low environmental impact tourism in the County.

Effectively convey the attractiveness of Saguache County’s natural, historic,
cultural and recreational resources.

Expand partnership activities with the Saguache County Tourism Council to
promote the map of “not-to-miss” County (and nearby) sites of natural,
historic and recreational interest.

Work with state and federal land management agencies to identify and
expand educational/recreational opportunities/activities on public lands
within and adjacent to the County.

Work to enhance and maintain existing festivals and events and to introduce
new events/activities that appeal to targeted market segments.

Initiate a process to increase the County sales tax.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Achieve an adequate mix of commercial development that meets the

needs of citizens and visitors

Support and promote compact, mixed use commercial areas.


Encourage SC towns to enhance the appearance of their downtown areas

through historic preservation, signage, streetscape improvements and
design features.

Support efforts to diversify businesses.

Encourage municipalities to create high density, mixed use commercial

districts in areas of existing development.


Actively pursue development of commercial corridors.


Encourage creation of street plans in developing commercial areas that access

State Highways to provide adequate access for businesses.

Create zoning regulations to control the types of businesses allowed in

neighborhood commercial areas.


Ensure that land use codes and approval processes at both the municipal
and county levels allow the appropriate extraction of natural resources and
mitigate for all impacts associated with these activities.


Carefully review existing permitting processes to ensure that all potential

impacts are mitigated prior to extraction and processing of all natural
resources activities.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009



Community Culture

As in many rural places with a pioneering history, the community culture in the
County is characterized by a “long distance good neighbors” policy. We tend
towards rugged individualism - we like our privacy, freedom and independence - but
are “there in a minute” if one of us needs help of any kind. Given our remote
location, we are well aware that there are many scenarios that could leave us very
much depending on one another.

Given the County’s small population, there are an amazing number of artists,
musicians, poets and artisans creating here, as well as a rich ranching and farming
history and wide open spaces of the physical environment.

Historic Sites
Saguache County contains a number of historic sites that appear on National and
State Registers of Historic Properties. These include the Carnero Creek Pictographs
(NR, 1975), Saguache School and Jail Buildings (NR, 1975); Saguache Flour Mill (NR
1978) – one of the few remaining water-powered grist mills in Colorado; Capilla de
San Juan Bautista, a.k.a La Garita church (NR, 1980); Crestone School (NR, 1986);
Saguache County Courthouse (SR, 1993); Saguache Elementary School (SR, 1993);
Sargent Schoolhouse (SR 1995); and Dunn's Block/Means & Ashley
Mercantile Company, Saguache (SR, 2006)18.

Being a place where many streams of

human culture – Native American,
Spanish, trappers, miners, farmers,
ranchers, war veterans, loggers,
environmentalists and spiritual
practitioners - converged, there are a
plethora of historic sites in the San
Luis Valley. Penitente Canyon, now
one of Colorado’s premier rock climbing
The old Saguache Crescent building

destinations, was once a secluded hermitage for a lay Catholic brotherhood, Los
Hermanos Penitentes. There are many historic mining districts and archeological
artifacts. There are other sites of important if less glorious aspects of history, such
as the old Agency Work Center where the Ute’s were located before being moved to
Montrose. The Old Spanish Trail, an historic trade route which became part of the
National Historic Trails system in 2002, as well as Pike’s Trail, traverse the Valley.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

There are 5 school districts that are either wholly or partially contained within the
County: Mountain Valley, Moffat, Center, Gunnison Watershed and Sangre de
Cristo. The map on the following page delineates them. There is a charter school in
the Crestone-Baca area (part of the Moffat school district) that is currently in a
Master Planning process in anticipation of receiving funds to build a new school
facility under the State’s BEST program. Nearly 1000 SC children were enrolled in
schools in the Fall of 2007.

Mountain Valley Schools have an excess of capacity. According to that district’s

superintendent, the schools that at one time housed 300-350 students now have an
enrollment of 120-130. Center school facilities are also underutilized.

Colorado College, based in Colorado Springs, has a fieldwork campus in the Baca,
but otherwise there are no post-secondary institutions in the County. Only about
70% of Saguache County kids finish high school, and while this is an improvement
over past statistics, how to keep our kids in school longer and motivated to pursue
higher education should be a persistent goal of the County. In addition, the County
should ensure convenient adult education and training opportunities to County
residents who would like to pursue their education even though they may be
working, or upgrade their skills to get a better job.

Saguache County Library

The Saguache County Public Library was given its present home in Saguache in
1963, through the donations of land by the Town of Saguache and the funding for
construction provided by the Gotthelf family. The library is an eco-friendly building
made from native adobe, with lots of solar gain. The library also has a branch in
Center located at the high school. The following activities are offered by the SCPL:
• Access to books, periodicals, audio books, books for the blind, educational
children’s materials (puppets, puzzles, flannel board stories) and videos
• An excellent collection of Colorado non-fiction resources
• Weekly pre-school story hours
• Summer reading programs for children
• Free public computer access
• Inter-library loan system that allows patrons to borrow from libraries across
• Use of color copier and fax machines for minimal fees
• Cozily furnished reading room, complete with player piano, for individual use
or public meetings
• Monthly special events and an open house.

Recognizing the vital role that the library plays in educating and entertaining our
community, the Friends of the Saguache Library is a local non-profit agency
dedicated to increasing public awareness and providing financial support, through
gifts, memorials and endowments.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Public Health and Social Services

The County Public Health Department provides the following home and community
based services:
• Regional and County Disaster Preparedness
• Home Care Providers for both adults and children with special needs
• Nursing Services - Immunization and Vaccinations
• Prevention Services
• Communicable Disease Investigation and Information
• Annual Health Fair
• Senior Services
• Newborn Baby Home Visits
• Outreach Clinics
• Diabetes Support Group
• Public Health Educational Programs

Public Housing is addressed in the Housing section.

Current Community Events

There area number of annual events
that attract both County residents and
those from afar. These include the
Crestone Music Festival, a Memorial
Day celebration and Historic Museum
opening in Saguache, a Ranching
Celebration sponsored by ScSEED
(Saguache), a Harvest Festival (Center),
La Garita Days, Shumei International
Annual Celebration (the Baca), and
Artists Studio Tour (Crestone-Baca),
Moffatstock, Crestone Winterfest and a Ranching Celebration – Saguache
Fall Festival (Saguache). photo: ScSEED

Crestone Music Festival Rug Auction at the Music Festival

Photos: Crestone Performances Inc.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Recreation is an integral part of the Saguache County lifestyle. With the
combination of an abundance of public lands and a sparse population, many types
of high quality outdoor recreational experiences are readily available year round.
The County does not operate any recreational facilities, and indoor facilities such as
gym, pool, tennis/squash courts, etc. are not available in the County, however there
are two hot springs resorts in the north end of the County: Valley View, stewarded
and operated by the Orient Land Trust, and Mineral Hot Springs & Joyful Journey
Resort. On the south end there is the (also hot mineral water) Sand Dunes pool NE
of Hooper. There is fishing and boating on the state run Dome Lakes, consummate
birding at Russell Lakes and bicycle tours (a Ride the Rockies segment takes place
here) .

Pool at Valley View

Great Sand Dunes pool

The figure on the following page shows a possible Trails Framework that
incorporates both natural and historic points of interest and highlights connectivity
between them.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009


Provide adequate parks and recreation facilities to serve the recreation

needs of residents and visitors.


Park and recreation facilities should provide for both outdoor and indoor
recreation opportunities for County residents and guests.


Create an informational brochure describing the various recreational

opportunities in the County.

Evaluate existing recreational demands and facilities located within the local
area. Upgrade and/or add facilities to meet unmet recreational needs.
Explore the possibility of using existing school facilities year round and
evenings for public recreation, to put such recreation opportunities closer to
home for more of the County’s residents.

Explore with the Forest Service and other public land managers how best to
meet the recreational demands of residents and visitors.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Develop and utilize public open space areas for recreation.

Develop site design criteria that provide an open space requirement for new

Encourage municipalities to develop a trails network/bike routes to provide

safe linkages between neighborhoods, parks, recreational facilities and other
community facilities.

Study possibilities to utilize no longer used railroad beds as trail routes.

Develop cooperative agreements with landowners regarding joint use of
rights-of-way for trails.

Enhance ties between the East and West sides of the County as well as
among neighboring towns and communities while recognizing the need to
maintain local and diverse identities.

Promote a sense of “county-ness” through communication about issues that
concern the county as a whole.

Improve networking throughout the County and foster more county-wide


Welcome new county residents by providing them with information about

County amenities.

Develop mechanisms for dealing informally and constructively with disputes.

Strengthen dialogue, sharing of information, and cooperation between the

community, public school officials and other agencies and organizations.


Provide Saguache County residents and visitors with a variety of cultural

and special events opportunities.

Promote community events that bring residents together and are inviting to

Provide support for community sponsored events.

Investigate the feasibility and potential benefits of new events to include

sporting events (e.g. marathon or bicycle race) music, art, festivals etc. and
consider funding these events.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Support community educational opportunities.


Work with schools to develop innovative uses of community adult volunteers

as mentors, intern supervisors, providers of classroom resources, etc.

Evaluate the possibilities for school district partnerships that lower costs of
delivering programs.

Enrich the relationship with School Districts to ensure that common issues
have a forum for cooperative discussion and resolution.

Study the feasibility of creating a Library District to provide needed funding

for the library.

Weave “homegrown” educational resources like the Ranching Way of Life

video and Saguache Community Garden into school curricula.

Create a Youth Corps and summer work opportunities for County youth.

Ensure the adequacy of social services to County residents.


Survey the social and health needs, including day-care programs, of the
County’s citizens and services programs.

Determine what more can be done to improve current health and human
services programs, possibly with additional resources.

Study the possibility of establishing a health care/ human resources center

for the County.


Encourage volunteer activities in the County and its communities.


Formally recognize the importance of care and support facilities and service
groups to the well-being of county residents.

Recognize the importance of local foundations and their support for community
services and projects.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Appendix A

Authorization under Colorado State Statutes

30-28-108. Adoption of plan by resolution.

Statute text

A county or regional planning commission may adopt the county or regional master plan as a whole by a
single resolution or, as the work of making the whole master plan progresses, may adopt parts thereof, any such
part to correspond generally with one or more of the functional subdivisions of the subject matter which may be
included in the plan. The commission may amend, extend, or add to the plan or carry any part of it into greater
detail from time to time. The adoption of the plan or any part, amendment, extension, or addition shall be by
resolution carried by the affirmative votes of not less than a majority of the entire membership of the commission.
The resolution shall refer expressly to the maps and descriptive matter intended by the commission to form the
whole or part of the plan. The action taken shall be recorded on the map and descriptive matter by the identifying
signature of the secretary of the commission.


Source: L. 39: p. 297, § 7. CSA: C. 45A, § 7. CRS 53: § 106-2-7. C.R.S. 1963: § 106-2-7.


Commission may amend, add, or extend plan once adopted and approved. Once the master
plan is adopted by the commission and approved by the board, the commission then may amend,
extend, or add to the plan as time and circumstances dictate. Johnson v. Board of County Comm'rs, 34
Colo. App. 14, 523 P.2d 159 (1974), aff'd sub nom. Colorado Leisure Prods., Inc. v. Johnson, 187 Colo.
443, 532 P.2d 742 (1975).

Also, this section is applicable to the resolutions of county commissioners on the subject of
zoning property. Gorden v. Board of County Comm'rs, 152 Colo. 376, 382 P.2d 545 (1963).

In amending the zoning law, the official or body making the amendment is enacting law,
binding on the public, and is not merely dealing with the rights of the owners of the particular property
affected, and the act is legislative and based on present facts, rather than judicial and dependent on
past facts. Gorden v. Board of County Comm'rs, 152 Colo. 376, 382 P.2d 545 (1963).

Municipal ordinance precluded. Where a statute, such as this section, authorizes the adoption of
zoning regulations by means of resolution, the municipality may not act by way of ordinance; but where
the statute requires an ordinance for the attainment of the zoning restriction, a resolution is ineffective
to accomplish the desired result. Gorden v. Board of County Comm'rs, 152 Colo. 376, 382 P.2d 545

The pronouncements of the supreme court in cases dealing with zoning ordinances
adopted by cities are applicable to the actions of county commissioners in connection with
zoning "resolutions" which they are now authorized to adopt, unless some specific statutory provision
authorizes a different procedure. Gorden v. Board of County Comm'rs, 152 Colo. 376, 382 P.2d 545

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Appendix B

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Colorado Natural Heritage Program’s

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

List of Saguache County Proposed Conservation Sites by Biodiversity Significance

as of 1997

SITE NAME Biodiversity Protection Management Sub-Region

Rank Urgency Rank Urgency Rank

Great Sand Dunes B1 P3 M4 Sand Dunes

660 Road Site B2 P3 M4 San Juan Mountains
Antelope Springs B2 P3 M4 Sand Dunes
Deadman Creek B2 P3 M3 Middle Sangre’s
Decker Creek B2 P4 M4 North Sangres/NVF*
Elephant Rocks B2 P3 M4 San Juan Mountains
Head of Spanish Creek B2 P2 M4 Middle Sangre’s
Jacks Creek Uplands B2 P2 M3 Cochetopa Hills
Mishak Lakes B2 P2 M3 Playas
Russell Lakes B2 P2 M3 Playa Lakes
San Luis Lakes/Sand Creek B2 P4 M4 Playa Lakes
Trickle Mountain B2 P4 M4 Cochetopa Hills
Valley View Hot Spring B2 P3 M3 Middle Sangre’s
Villa Grove B2 P3 M3 North Sangre’s/NVF
Carnero Creek B3 P4 M2 San Juan Mountains
Cotton Creek B3 P4 M3 Middle Sangre’s
Cottonwood Creek B3 P3 M3 Middle Sangre’s
Cottonwood Creek Hills B3 P4 M4 San Juan Mountains
Dimick Gulch B3 P4 M5 Middle Sangre’s
Findley Gulch B3 P4 M4 Cochetopa Hills
Ford Creek B3 P3 M3 Cochetopa Hills
Jacks Creek Cemetery B3 P3 M4 Cochetopa Hills
Kelley Creek B3 P4 M4 Cochetopa Hills
Lake Fork of
North Crestone Creek B3 P4 M4 Middle Sangre’s
Milwaukee Peak B3 P4 M4 Middle Sangre’s
Rito Alto Bosque B3 P3 M3 Middle Sangre’s
Saguache Creek B3 P4 M3 San Juan Mountains
Sangre's Alluvial Fan B3 P4 M4 North Sangre’s-NVF
Upper Medano Creek B3 P4 M4 Middle Sangre’s
Valley View B3 P5 M5 Middle Sangre’s
Weisman Lakes B3 P2 M4 Playa Lakes
Cedar Canyon B4 P3 M3 Middle Sangre’s
Clayton Cone B4 P4 M4 North Sangre’s-NVF
Devils Knob B4 P4 M4 Cochetopa Hills
Garner Creek B4 P3 M3 Middle Sangre’s
Houselog Creek B4 P4 M4 Cochetopa Hills
Luder Creek B4 P4 M3 Cochetopa Hills
Mineral Hot Springs B4 P4 M4 North Sangre’s-NVF
Moffat playas B4 P2 M2 North Sangre’s-NVF
Slaughterhouse Creek B4 P4 M5 Cochetopa Hills
Wild Cherry Creek B4 P4 M4 Middle Sangre’s
Eagle Mountain B5 P4 M3 San Juan Mountains
East Middle Creek B5 P4 M4 Cochetopa Hills
Groundhog Park B5 P4 M3 San Juan Mountains
La Garita B5 P4 M4 San Juan Mountains

* NVF – North Valley Floor

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Appendix C

Federal Energy Related Programs

Energy Efficiency Incentives

• Consumer tax credit of up to $300 for energy efficiency improvements to the home,
including energy efficient biomass fuel stoves. Expires 12/31/2009
• Energy efficiency tax credit of 10% of cost for residential building envelope
improvements (insulation and air sealing); 100% of cost for qualified energy efficient
appliances (such as furnaces, boilers, water heaters, window upgrades). Maximum
varies by technology, but overall cap of $500 for all improvements combined.
Measures must be installed in the 2009 calendar year.
• New energy efficient home property tax credit for the construction of new homes that
achieve a 30% or 50% reduction in heating and cooling energy consumption relative to
a comparable home. The credit for 30% increase in efficiency is $1000, for 50%,
$2000. Expires 12/31/2009
• Energy efficient buildings deduction to owners of new or existing commercial
buildings who install interior lighting OR HVAC OR hot water systems that reduce the
building's total energy and power cost by 50% or more relative to a comparable
building. Deduction equals $0.30 - $1.80 per square foot depending on the technology
and energy reduction. Expires 12/31/2013
• Accelerated depreciation for smart meters and smart grid systems and recycling
• Authorization of $800 million in new Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs)
to state and local government initiatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
QECBs can be issued to finance capital expenditures incurred for reducing energy
consumption by at least 20%, implementing green community programs and rural
development involving production of electricity from renewable resources.
• Manufacturer tax credits for sales of high-efficiency refrigerators, clothes washers,
dishwashers, and dehumidifiers. Expires 12/31/2010

Solar Energy Incentives

• Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30% of installation costs, including solar energy
equipment and labor, with no maximum credit limit for commercial systems. Eligible
property includes equipment that uses solar energy to generate electricity, to heat or
cool (or provide hot water for use in) a structure, or to provide solar process heat.
Credit reverts to 10% 12/31/2016
• Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30% of installation costs, including solar energy
equipment and labor, for residential systems. While a cap of $2,000 applied to all solar
(photovoltaic and domestic hot water) systems installed on or before 12/31/2008; no
cap exists for solar photovoltaic beginning 01/01/2009.
Credit reverts to 10% 12/31/2016

Wind Energy Incentives

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

• Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30% of total installed costs for small wind systems
(100kW capacity or less) for home, farm, or business use. Residential systems are
limited to the lesser of $1,000 per kW capacity or $4,000. Measured output must be
installed by 12/31/2016
• Production Tax Credit (PTC) of 2.1 cents/kWh for wind facilities. Expires 12/31/2009

Geothermal Energy Incentives

• Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 10% of expenditures for geothermal energy property,
including geothermal heat pumps and equipment used to produce, distribute or use
energy derived from a geothermal deposit.
For electricity produced by geothermal power, equipment qualifies only up to, but not
including, the electric transmission stage. For geothermal heat pumps, this credit
applies to and is capped at $2,000.
In service date range (heat pumps only): 01/01/2008-12/31/2016

Fuel Cells Incentives

• Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30% of expenditures for commercial or residential fuel
cell property. The credit is capped at $1,500 per 0.5 kw of capacity for commercial,
$500 per half kw for residential. Eligible property includes fuel cells with a minimum
nameplate capacity of 0.5 kW that have an electricity-only generation efficiency of
30% or higher. Expires: 12/31/2016

Other Renewable Energy Incentives

• Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 10% of expenditures for microturbines with system
size of up to 2 MW in capacity that have an electricity-only generation efficiency of
26% or higher. Credit is capped at $200 per kw of capacity. Expires: 12/31/2016
• Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of up 10% of expenditures for combined heat and power
(CHP) systems. Eligible CHP property generally includes systems up to 50 MW in
capacity that exceed 60% energy efficiency, subject to certain limitations and
reductions for large systems. The efficiency requirement does not apply to CHP
systems that use biomass for at least 90% of the system's energy source, but the credit
may be reduced for less-efficient systems.
• New authorization for $800 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) to
finance facilities that generate electricity from wind, (closed-loop or open-loop)
biomass, geothermal, small irrigation, qualified hydropower, landfill gas, marine
renewable and trash combustion facilities. Public power providers, governmental
bodies, and electric cooperatives are each reserved an equal share (33.33%) of the most
recent allocation. The termination date for existing clean renewable
energy bonds is extended by one year.
• Deferral of gain on sales of transmission property by vertically integrated electric
utilities to FERC-approved independent transmission companies. Applies to sales
occurring before 01/01/2010

Transportation & Alternative Fuels Incentives

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

• Credit for plug-in electric drive vehicles ranging from $2,500-$7,500. The credit can be
applied to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) liability. Expires: The first quarter
after 250,000 qualified vehicles have been sold in the US.
• Allowance for limited fringe benefits provided by employers to employees who
commute to work by bicycle to offset the costs of such commuting (e.g., storage).
• Alternative Refueling Stations Property Tax Credit for 30% of the property for natural
gas or E85 pumps Expands the tax credit to apply to electric vehicle recharging
property. Expires: 12/31/2010
• Alternative Fuels Excise Tax Credit for all fuels, except hydrogen. Biomass gas
versions of liquefied petroleum gas and liquefied or compressed natural gas, and
aviation fuels qualify for the credit. Expires: 12/31/2009
• Production Tax Credit (PTC) of $1/gal for biodiesel, $0.10/gal for small biodiesel
producers, and $1/gal diesel fuel from biomass. Regardless of the process used, as long
as the fuel is usable as home heating oil, as a fuel in vehicles, or as aviation jet fuel.
Expires: 12/31/2009
• Diesel fuel created by co-processing biomass with other feedstocks (e.g., petroleum)
will be eligible for the 50¢/gallon tax credit for alternative fuels.
• Taxpayers are allowed to immediately write off 50% of the cost of facilities that
produce cellulosic biofuels ethanol if such facilities are placed in service before
• Section 9004 of the 2008 Farm Bill: Repowering Assistance – Provides for payments
to biorefineries to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or power to operate the
biorefineries with renewable biomass. $35 Million for FY 2009 that will remain
available until the funds are exhausted with additional funding of $15 million per year,
from FY 2009 through 2012.
• Section 9005 of the 2008 Farm Bill: Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels –
Provides for payments to be made to eligible agricultural producers to support and
ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels. $55 Million in FYs 2009 and
2010; $85 Million in FY 2011; $105 Million in FY 2012 with additional funding of
$25 million per year, from FY 2009 to 2012
• Section 9013 of the 2008 Farm Bill: Community Wood Energy Program –
Provides grants to state and local governments to develop community wood energy
plans and to acquire or upgrade wood energy systems. $5 Million per year from FY
2009 through FY 2012.
• Section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill: Rural Energy for America Program – Expands and
renames the program formerly called the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy
Efficiency Improvements Program. Provides grants and loan guarantees for energy
audits, feasibility studies and project development of renewable energy systems and
energy efficiency improvements. Adds hydroelectric source technologies and energy
audits as eligible costs. Increases loan limits. $55 Million for FY 2009; $60 Million for
FY 2010; $70 Million for FYs 2011 and 2012 with additional funding of $25 Million
per year, from FY 2009 through 2012.

Draft – Saguache County Master Plan 2009

Appendix D

Environmental Reviews applicable to Economic Development Projects

(partial listing)
Historic Properties
∗ National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 – P.L. 89-665, 16 U.S.C. 470.
∗ The Archeological and Historic Data Preservation Act of 1974 – P.L. 93-291, 16
U.S.C. 469.
∗ Executive Order #11593, Protection and Enhancement of the Cultural
∗ 36 CFR, Part 800, Procedure for the Protection of Historic and Cultural Properties.
∗ 24 CFR, Part 59, Protection of Historic and Cultural Properties under HUD

Floodplains and Wetlands

∗ Protection of Wetlands, 44 FR 47006, August 9, 1973.
∗ Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973, 42 U.S.C. 4001, et seq.
∗ Executive Order #11988, Floodplain Management, May 24, 1977, 42 FR 26952,
May 25, 1977.
∗ Executive Order #11990, Protection of Wetlands, May 24, 1977, 42 FR 26951,
May 25, 1977.
∗ Colorado Executive Order #8491, Evaluation of Flood Hazards in Locating State
Buildings, Road and other Facilities, and in Reviewing and Approving Sewage and
Water Facilities, and Subdivisions.
∗ Colorado Executive Order #8504, Requirements and Criteria for State
Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Endangered Species∗ Endangered Species Act of 1973, P.L. 93-205, as amended

by the Endangered Species Act of 1978, P.L. 95-632, 16 U.S.C. 1536.
Wild and Scenic Rivers∗ Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, P.L. 90-542, 16
U.S.C., 1274, et seq., as amended.
Air Quality∗ Clean Air Act Amendment of 1970, 42 U.S.C. 740 1 et seq., as
amended, particularly Section 176 (c) and (d).
Noise, Hazardous Siting, Airport Runway Clear Zones, EPA Superfund Sites∗ 24
CFR, Part 51, Environmental Criteria and Standards, 44 FR 40860-40866, July 12,
1979 (Revised 1984).
Farmland Protection∗ Farmland Protection Policy Act of 1981, 7 U.S.C. 42 01 et
seq., particularly sections 1540(b) and 1541.
Environmental Justice∗ 3 CFR, 1994 Comp. P. 859; 59 FR 7629, Executive Order
12898, February 11, 1994.