From the Desk of Eric Heil, Town Attorney
February, 2004

EPA, ARCO, and Lead Issues

A community meeting is scheduled with EPA and ARCO on February 11th, at the Rico Town Hall, at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the lead issues in Rico. ARCO has expressed their interest in proposing a voluntary clean-up application and is currently working with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to submit a draft clean-up plan. ARCO officials have indicated that they desire the Town to sign on as a co-applicant with the understanding that ARCO would assume all legal and financial liability. This request will be seriously considered because of the possibility of soil contamination in town streets.
EPA has stated that they will give information to the public at the February 11th meeting. EPA has not provided any written information to the Town about lead sampling results nor have they provided maps of the sampling areas. Both the EPA and ARCO have discussed making blood testing available for those interested in determining if they or their children are affected by lead contamination.

Several issues must be addressed this winter in order to move forward with clean-up of contaminated soils. First, a comprehensive soil sampling program should be established for this summer. EPA’s soil sampling last fall was limited and we think only encompassed approximately ¼ of town. We do not know the extent of the soil sampling because EPA has not yet provided information on last fall’s sampling program.

Second, the level of health risk needs to be determined. Town is considering independent technical assistance with evaluating lead risk issues. A non-profit group called TOSC/TAB (Technical Outreach Services for Communities and Technical Assistance to Brownfields Communities) met with the Town Board to offer technical assistance on lead risk evaluation. TOSC/TAB is affiliated with Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Montana. Federal standards generally consider lead levels above 500 to 1,000 parts per million to be a health concern. Once information is made available to the Town, then community meetings can be conducted to review and discuss lead risk in Rico.

Another issue will be determining a suitable site for a repository in the Rico area. A repository site is a site where contaminated soils can be stored. Sites north of Town are being considered. The process and regulations for approval of a repository site are being considered right now. The permitting process generally takes 6 to 12 months, so this process must be started soon in order to establish a suitable site to receive the contaminated soils.
And a last issue is the use of “borrow sites” where top soils are stripped and used to cover of repository areas.

Master Plan

The Rico Planning Commission reviewed a complete draft of the revised master plan at their regular meeting on January 27th. The worksession was continued until February 9th. Hopefully, a public hearing draft will be finished in the next couple weeks and a public hearing will be set for March 30th. The Master Plan is entitled the Rico Regional Master Plan. The document is substantially revised from the 1996 document. Many goals and specific tasks in the 1996 document have been completed. Rico Renaissance’s regional development plan, which was approved last March, is now incorporated as its own separate chapter in the Rico Regional Master Plan.

Other changes include the establishment of a 3-mile planning area which is authorized by state statute and the establishment of an inner “urban growth boundary”. The urban growth boundary is the area in town and areas planned for annexation where water and sewer are planned to be provided. The revised Master Plan expressly states that water rights, water system improvements, and sewer system must be approved prior to annexing additional lands and approving additional developments.

The revised Rico Regional Master Plan expresses strong sentiments about the uniqueness of Rico and the desire to balance tourism development with the needs and character of the Town. The statement is made several times that Rico desires to be a town, and not a resort. Compared to many other communities, Rico has very limited potential for hotel development (there just are not that many properties suitable for hotel development). While hotels and tourism growth are likely in the future, it is also likely that the year-round resident population will always surpass and visitor bed base. This is very unique because practically every other mountain town in the area has a greater visitor bed base than resident population.
The revised Rico Regional Master Plan, along with maps, will be available for review at the Rico Town Hall as soon as the Planning Commission finishes their review of the draft document. We will also put the document on the Town website.

Meeting with Rico Renaissance

The Board of Trustees held a meeting with Rico Renaissance partners on Saturday, January 31st to discuss a long list of issues. Mayor Tom Clark, Trustee Judy Schaefer, Trustee Dave Kunz, Town Manager Ashton Harrison and Town Attorney Eric Heil attended on behalf of the Town. Bill Baird, Stan Foster, Ramon Escure and Chip Lennihan attended on behalf of Rico Renaissance. The meeting was very cooperative and productive. Renaissance began the meeting by stating that they do not intend to develop their properties. Rather, they intend to move forward with the Forest Service land trade, Conceptual PUD and annexation application. Then, they plan to either sell separate development areas to other developers or enter into joint ventures to bring in other partners with the capital and resources to actually development the planned the development areas. The forest service land trade, annexation and conceptual PUD approval is likely to take at least 1 to 2 years.

Rico Renaissance can move forward with development of areas within Town. There are approximately 3 to 5 small areas in Town which could be subdivided into 40 to 50 homesites.

Renaissance representatives also stated that they intend to donate the river corridor properties to the Town. Several of the properties will require subdivision to separate the river corridor flood plain portions from the planned development portions. Town and Renaissance are discussing the issues and process related to donation of river corridor properties.

Detachment Study Committee

The Town Board has approved a resolution establishing an official study committee to study changing the Rico area to the Telluride School District as well as forming an independent Rico County. The Board has appointed Erin Sweet, Joe Croke, Nicole Pieterse, Keith Lindauer and Eric Heil to the study committee. A lot of work has already been performed on studying the change of school district issue during the reorganization process that took place from 2000 to 2003.

The possibility of forming an independent county will of course take a lot of study and is likely to take several months. The study group is starting by studying the budgets of the three smallest counties in Colorado: San Juan County (Silverton), Hinsdale County (Lake City) and Mineral County (Creede). The Study Committee hopes to begin putting information on Rico website in the near future.


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