MINUTES OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Monday, FEBRUARY 4, 2008
LAND USE HEARING
(#165, 166, 167)
The Board of County Commissioners met at 6:30 p.m. with Matt Lafferty, Principal Planner. Chair Gibson presided and Commissioners Eubanks and Rennels were present. Also present were: Doug Ryan and Rob Helmick, Planning; Traci Downs, Engineering; Frank Lancaster, County Manager; Deni LaRue, Commissioner’s Office; Jeanine Haag and William Ressue, County Attorney’s Office; and Angela Myers, Deputy Clerk.
Chair Gibson requested that Mr. Lafferty explain the “rules” for the meeting, opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance, and asked for public comment on the County Budget and Land Use Code. No one from the audience addressed the Board regarding these topics.
1. W.O.L.F AMENDED SPECIAL REVIEW, FILE #07-Z1640: Rob Helmick explained that this request is for review of proposed amendments to the existing Special Review application for an animal sanctuary/rescue facility. He then showed the location of the subject property on a map as being located at NW 1-7-71; 1693 Spring Valley Road, which is located off Rist Canyon Road approximately three miles east of Stove Prairie School.
Mr. Helmick further explained that this application was originally scheduled for hearing on December 3, 2007. At the request of the applicant, the hearing was rescheduled to February 4, 2008. He then described the informational materials that have been provided to the Board in connection with this matter, including additional letters and information received from the applicants in consideration of the application.
Mr. Helmick went on to explain that it has been noted, since the original hearing and analysis, that there are elements of the requested amendment beyond the issue of an increase in the numbers of animals housed at the site. A list of the requested amendments can be found on Page 7 of the original application book prepared by the applicant, and Mr. Helmick briefly outlined each. These requested amendments included increasing the number of acres from five to thirty; changing the parcel configuration from three to four lots; revising the census reporting requirement from five to ten days; modifying enforcement to include a hearing; and modifying the number of round-trip visits to the site to allow for donor visits.
Mr. Helmick then explained the staff’s process for considering this request, which was presented to the Larimer County Planning Commission at a public hearing held on October 17, 2007. No new information has been submitted by the applicant or others. There have been additional letters of support and opposition received regarding this matter which have been subsequently provided to the Board.
At the Larimer County Planning Commission hearing the recommendation of the Development Services Team was for approval, although the team did note that neighborhood compatibility was an open question which should, in part, be based upon testimony of the neighbors. Additionally, the recommendation included suggested conditions of approval with respect to fire protection and safety. Based upon the team’s interpretation of the letter from the Chief of the Rist Canyon Fire Department, specific conditions of approval were included to respond to what was interpreted to be suggestions from the chief. At the hearing, new information was provided to the Larimer County Planning Commission in the form of testimony from the chief. He indicated very clearly that the fire department did not support proposed expansion of the facility, because of fire protection and safety concerns.
Based upon this new information from the fire department presented at the hearing and the action of the Larimer County Planning Commission in the form of a unanimous recommendation for denial, the team concurs with the Larimer County Planning Commission in their recommendation for denial.
Mr. Helmick also stated, for the record, that the Board of County Commissioners conducted a field trip to the site with staff on November 5, 2007. At that time, the Board took note of the site, including the new facilities, fencing, and condition and status of the roadway; reviewed the map of the facility provided by the applicants; asked about the number of animals and neighbors; and asked about the Planning Commission field trip to the site.
Commissioner Eubanks asked about the road access to this location. Mr. Helmick explained that there are differing legal opinions as to whether the property owner has legal access to the road for the current use at this site. At this point, there has been no litigation regarding this contention and, thus, no final word on this matter.
At this time, Stewart McNab, representative for the applicant, approached the Board and began by explaining that the activities at W.O.L.F. have included the development of standards that are highly regarded worldwide and have provided standards that are now practiced by the sanctuary movement as a whole. Mr. McNab then showed a video about the activities at W.O.L.F. and followed the video with a brief outline of the history of activities at this site and the processes of Special Review and amendments to same that have be pursued through the years. Initially the site included more than 50 animals, which, after the Special Review process limiting the number allowed to 30 animals, the number of animals has been decreased through the process of attrition. The site has been operating steadily with 30 animals since that time, with the exception of one special request made on behalf of a single animal and approved by the Board on a limited basis.
Mr. McNab went on by explaining the inspection process that has been in place, and commented on the fact that there have been no complaints and no violations during the time that W.O.L.F. has been in operation at this site. He reviewed the specific amendments to the Special Review that are being requested as part of this process.
Regarding the access road, Mr. McNab reviewed the results of a trip report, which indicates an average of 2.4 trips per day to/from the site, even though they are allowed 7 trips per day by the Special Review. He further explained that the original Special Review required a road maintenance plan, which has not, to date, been recorded because of the dispute over access to the road. However, he indicated that the applicant is ready and willing to comply with that road maintenance plan when circumstances allow.
Regarding fire safety, Mr. McNab explained that the requested amendments to the Special Review do not include any additional structures or any increase in the number of volunteers at the site. He went on to explain that, within the enclosure, natural mitigation reduces fire fuel; and he outlined the current plans for evacuation, should fire occur at the site. These plans include sedating and evacuating animals to a pre-planned location, if possible. If evacuation of the animals is not possible, the plan would be to leave the animals to survive within their enclosures, where fire fuel is minimal, and evacuate people only from the site. Mr. McNab emphasized that the applicant is not looking to fire officials for evacuation of the animals, and asserted that the volunteers will have no difficulty leaving the animals at the site, should impending fire make it impossible to remove them without risking human life. He stated that the applicant is willing to do further mitigation at the site, should the fire department and/or the Board require it.
Regarding compatibility with the existing and allowed land uses in the area, Mr. McNab asserted that there have been no complaints in seven years; noise will not be appreciably increased by the increase in animals, as supported by a recent noise study conducted by the applicant; area property values have continued to increase, indicating that the W.O.L.F. sanctuary is not negatively affecting the value of surrounding properties; and support for this effort outweighs opposition, per data he provided and reviewed during the meeting.
Commissioner Eubanks asked Mr. McNab if the applicant has applied for the proper permits associated with fence building that is underway at the site. Mr. McNab explained that the applicant initially believed permits were not required for fences, but that such applications have since (and will in the future) been applied for as required. Brief discussion ensued on this topic.
Commissioner Rennels asked for clarification regarding the request for modification of census reporting requirements from five to ten days. Mr. McNab explained that the volunteers are often emotionally distraught when an animal passes and find that following the reporting requirements during the immediate time frame is difficult.
Commissioner Gibson asked for clarification of the space to animal ratio that would result from the amendment requests, and brief discussion ensued on this topic.
Robert Gann, Rist Canyon Fire Chief, approached the Board and expressed his frustration that some individuals who have disagreed with his perspective regarding this request have questioned his authority and his ability to consider this project in an unbiased manner. He stated that he had concerns about the original Special Review for W.O.L.F. because of the quality of the access road and the topography of this site. However, at that time, he realized that the project was going to be approved, so he focused on the best practices for fire safety under the conditions.
Chief Gann indicated that, at this time, he is strongly opposed to the requests being made by the applicant. He sites the same reasons for concern in the past; topography of the site and quality of the access road; and further expressed concern that the fence posts that are constructed of wood will burn and eventually fall, allowing for animal escape. Further, he explained that there have been logistical issues on the road during past evacuation efforts; and he is concerned that, while volunteers assert differently, it will be difficult for them to leave the animals behind and evacuate when the volunteer firemen request them to do so, should a fire event occur at the site. He explained that, under emergency fire conditions, people cannot be forced to evacuate, although they can be denied access if they are not already at the site. Brief discussion ensued regarding the location where the road would be closed to access during an event.
At this time, Chair Gibson opened the meeting to public comment.
The following individuals addressed the Board in favor of the W.O.L.F. Amended Special Review: Wayne Arndt, Todd Cox, Daniel Allan, Bonnie Mandell-Rice, and Richard Warner. Their comments in favor of this request included: consideration for the animals and the need for a place for them to safely live their lives; the fact that W.O.L.F. provides a very good service, including one of educating the public and providing life lessons for volunteers; the fact that W.O.L.F. has an excellent reputation within the sanctuary movement resulting in outreach from this facility being the largest in the nation; breeding of wolf hybrids is a national issue that, unfortunately, creates the need for the services provided by W.O.L.F., and this facility educates people why they should NOT breed wolf hybrids; concern that humans are increasingly encroaching on animal habitat; belief that the animals are not a threat to humans, but rather fear humans in general; concern that some of those opposed simply dislike the owners, making a decision in this matter more of a popularity contest rather than a decision based on facts; those at the site have been considerate of neighbors when their animals are found on W.O.L.F. property; as individuals who live within close proximity, the noise produced by the animals is not a nuisance, rather it provides people who chose to live closer to nature more natural sounds; Frank Wendland, in good faith, misinterpreted local codes when he did not seek permits for the new fencing on the property and he now understands that such permits are required.
Howard McGregor of Engineering Dynamics approached the Board and explained the noise study that was conducted at the site and the meaning of the results they found.
W.O.L.F. Volunteers who addressed the Board in favor of this request included: Brandy Russell, Helene Harrison, Pat Piscani, and Joni Crist. Their comments in favor of this request included their first-hand experiences with: training and rules required by W.O.L.F. for careful use of the access road, consideration of the neighbors and care of the animals; knowledge of how strictly the rules are adhered to and the likelihood that a volunteer would be terminated if the rules were broken; emergency fire conditions and their ability to leave the animals behind, if necessary, during a fire emergency; a previous fire at the site in 2000 and the ability of volunteers to successfully evacuate the animals; safety procedures at the double-locked gating system leading to the animal enclosures; the nature of these animals, how their age makes them less nimble, and their acclamation to, or fear of, humans (depending on the dog), which likely makes them an insignificant threat if they should escape; the fact that no animals have escaped from the site since these volunteers have been working there; and knowing that anything the volunteers would do wrong (in the neighborhood or on the road) would result in negative impact to the animals.
The following individuals addressed the Board in opposition of the W.O.L.F. Amended Special Review: Ian Stewart, Jim Smith, Richard Lund, Mike Salaz, Karen Salaz, Cynthia Johnson, Katherine Stowe (and those she represented), Jim Shaklee, Moby Wile, Tom Holtzer, Irene Holtzer, Glenn Johnson, Carol Herron, Jayne Johnson, Dennis Davis and Kathy Dykstra. Their reasons for opposing this request included: Concern that this is actually a commercial enterprise in a rural residential setting; this is more like a “feedlot” operation than a typical “agricultural” operation; concern that Mr. Wendland cannot be trusted to portray the facts accurately; concern that all those directly affected, or owning property in the immediate area, were not directly communicated with regarding this matter, regardless of what the statistics provided by Mr. McNab indicated; the fact that the vast majority of those in favor of this request do not live in the neighborhood; bad experiences with W.O.L.F. volunteers when they are encountered on the access road; concern that neighborhood dogs have been injured or killed in retaliation for opposition to W.O.L.F. activities at the site; observation that there have been animal escapes from the site, and one occasion was described in which W.O.L.F. was called by neighbors who observed loose animals and came to pick-up the animals, not admitting that they were, in fact, animals from the W.O.L.F. site; W.O.L.F. volunteers regularly leave the access road gate open; even if the folks at W.O.L.F. are doing a good job and a great services, there are concerns with increasing the number of animals allowed at the facility; there have, in fact, been complaints made by residents in various fashion, none of which received any action from officials; comments in opposition at this hearing should be considered “complaints” against W.O.L.F.; objection to the use of a private road for business purposes; barking and howling by the dogs is an issue for neighbors, especially when it occurs round the clock; there is risk of human injury, should the animals escape; there is concern that wolf hybrids are actually more dangerous to humans, especially children, than wolves themselves; there is a lack of legitimate oversight of the facility; there is no real enforcement of the number of animals kept at the site; concern that increasing the number of animals is something that will continue as time goes on, if allowed by Larimer County; destruction of the habitat and stress on wildlife that would be forced to go around the property, especially if it is expanded from five to thirty acres; increased traffic on an already-too-busy access road; flooding is a concern in this area and stranding could be an issue; human error could result in safety issues for neighbors; W.O.L.F., at least inadvertently, promotes the creation of problem hybrid animals; wolf hybrids should be put down; and concern for county and/or taxpayer liability if something goes wrong at the site.
Richard Lund, associate of Chief Gann, approached the Board to express his personal knowledge of Chief Gann through connection with the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department. He stated that, during his 13-year association with Chief Gann, he has observed that Chief Gann conducts himself with the utmost integrity and professionalism, and he observed Chief Gann’s report regarding this matter to have been professionally prepared.
Michael Hayne, Assistant Fire Chief, approached the Board regarding concern for fence integrity at the site; complexity of time during an emergency fire event; the tendency for volunteers not to evacuate the site until the last animal has been safely removed; and the safety of fire fighters, residents and animals under these conditions.
Wes Rutt, past President of the Rist Canyon First Department Board of Directors, approached the Board in support of the position taken by the Rist Canyon Fire Department in this matter and the integrity of Chief Gann. He expressed dismay at the perceived efforts by the applicant (or applicant’s representatives) to discredit Chief Gann.
Mr. McNab approached the Board to address the concerns expressed by those in opposition to this request. He stated that the number of animals has been 30 since January 2006. He further commented that the likelihood of volunteers to abandon the animals is purely speculative; there have been communications difficulties between W.O.L.F. and the fire department in the past, but that communication has been improving in recent days; and noise studies indicate that increased animals does not necessarily equate to appreciable increase in noise at the site.
Chief Gann again approached the Board and stated that “communication difficulties” between W.O.L.F. and the fire department have been the result of W.O.L.F.’s failure to communicate. He went on to describe the recent communications between the two that Mr. McNab referred to.
Chair Gibson closed pubic comment.
Commissioner Eubanks inquired as to the applicant’s current liability insurance, which Mr. Wendland confirmed to be General Liability of $2 million. Commissioner Eubanks asked Mr. Wendland if he would commit to evacuating the site and leaving the animals behind if an emergency situation required it, and Mr. Wendland confirmed that he would. Commissioner Eubanks further asked Mr. Wendland if he would have objection to the penalty for animal overages being changed to $50 per day per animal; and Mr. Wendland indicated that he would have no objection to this.
Commissioner Gibson commented that the access road was not intended for this purpose and that he has concerns regarding fire, safety and access at this site. He further stated that, when considering the subject request, the current road access would not adequate accommodate the safety needs of everyone utilizing it.
Commissioner Rennels stated that she is the only commissioner present who was also present when the original Special Review was approved and that there weren’t complaints at that time, because the residents trusted that the County would hold the applicants to the requirements of the Special Review. She stated that, up to this point, W.O.L.F. has held up its end of the bargain, has created a pattern for other such facilities to follow, and is operating a great facility. Commissioner Rennels stated that she has raised a hybrid, was very touched by the video presented and would not like to see any animals left behind in an emergency situation. She stated that her concerns are the same as they were at the time of the original Special Review, and she is not certain that the emergency needs of 60 (as opposed to 30) animals could be accommodated as well at the current site with the current access road. She concluded by stating that the road issue needs to be cured, and that she would like to support the applicant’s request, but cannot do so under the current, unchanged circumstances.
Commissioner Eubanks expressed his appreciation for Fire Chief Gann’s attention to this matter and stated that, as far as he was concerned, the Chief’s integrity and intent were never in question. He stated that this is a hard decision, that W.O.L.F.’s charter and mission are noble, and that he does not believe the risks associated with approval are as extreme as has been mentioned. Commissioner Eubanks further stated that the compatibility question was decided when the original Special Review was approved and should not be revisited at this time and that the choice of a volunteer who stayed to assist the animals in an emergency would be just that, a choice made freely by the volunteer. He concluded by stating that, if the applicant would agree to a modification changing the fine to $50 per animal per day for more than the number allowed, he would be inclined to approve this Amended Special Review Request.
M O T I O N
Commissioner Rennels moved that the Board of County Commissioners deny the W.O.L.F. Amended Special Review.
Motion carried 2-1; Commissioner Eubanks dissenting.
The meeting adjourned at 10:00 p.m.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2008
The Board of County Commissioners met at 9:00 a.m. with County Manager Frank Lancaster. Chair Gibson presided and Commissioners Eubanks and Rennels were present. Also present were: Donna Hart, Diane Tokarz, and Deni LaRue, Commissioners’ Office; Marc Engemoen, Mark Peterson, Martina Wilkinson, and Kyle Arend, Engineering Department; Andy Paratore, and Greg Vickerman, Facilities and Information Technology Division; Jeannine Haag, and Sean McGill, County Attorney's Office; and Gael Cookman, Deputy Clerk.
1. PUBLIC COMMENT: Cleo Hansen addressed the Board with complaints regarding the train horns and whistles, as the decibel levels have increased and are a noise nuisance as well as a possible safety hazard. She requested the Board's assistance on possibly designating the area around her neighborhood as a quiet zone. Mr. Lancaster explained that train whistles are exempt from local noise ordinances, but stated that he would have staff follow up on the possibility of creating quiet zones within the county.
2. APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES FOR THE WEEK OF JANUARY 28, 2008:
M O T I O N
Commissioner Rennels moved that the Board of County Commissioners approve the minutes for the week of January 28, 2008.
Motion carried 3-0.
3. REVIEW THE SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 11, 2008: Ms. Hart reviewed the upcoming schedule with the Board.
4. CONSENT AGENDA:
M O T I O N
Commissioner Rennels moved that the Board of County Commissioners approve the following items as presented on the Consent Agenda for February 5, 2008:
02052008D001 DEED OF DEDICATION BY ROBERT L. GRAVES AND CHRISTINE HOULDSWORTH TO LARIMER COUNTY
02052008R001 FINDINGS AND RESOLUTION APPROVING THE PRELIMINARY AND FINAL PLAT FOR NORTH STAR SUBDIVISION AND APPEALS
02052008R002 RESOLUTION ESTABLISHING COMPENSATION FOR DISTRICT ATTORNEY APPOINTED OFFICIALS
MISCELLANEOUS: Annual Certification of Larimer County Road Mileage to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Motion carried 3-0.
5. FOLLOW UP INFORMATION ON PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE AND FUNCTION OF MODERN ROUNDABOUT AT TAFT HILL AND VINE DRIVE: Mr. Engemoen and Mr. Peterson provided an update for the Board regarding the successful installation of the roundabout at Taft Hill and Vine Drive. Mr. Engemoen explained that as part of the project completion, a post construction survey was mailed to area residents. Mr. Engemoen stated that 87% of those survey's that were returned stated that they were very supportive of the use of a roundabout in this location, and 85% felt that the goals of improved functionality and safety were met. The Board thanked Mr. Engemoen and Mr. Peterson for the follow up and gave special recognition to Martina Wilkinson and Kyle Arend for their efforts in making this such a successful project.
6. REQUEST FROM INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY DIVISION TO CONVERT TEMPORARY AND HALF TIME POSITIONS TO PERMANENT FULL TIME POSITIONS: Mr. Vickerman and Mr. Paratore explained that the PC Replacement Plan yearly effort requires 2 FTE of temporary technical support to complete the effort, in addition to the permanent staff that manages this project. Temporary staff must be re-trained yearly to perform the tasks required for this, and rather than continue to absorb the costs of hiring and re-training temporary staff, Mr. Vickerman requested the ability to convert the existing temporary positions to permanent staff. Mr. Paratore noted that they have the funds within their budget to pay for the positions, and further noted that if future budget cuts or lay-offs become necessary, then he would do what is necessary to balance his budget. Some discussion ensued and Chair Gibson stated that he could not support this request until the plan for long term budgeting for the county is complete, which should be sometime in March 2008. Commissioner Eubanks asked if it was imperative that the request be approved today, or if it could wait 60 days. Mr. Paratore stated that they have already delayed this request and it would be most beneficial to have it approved today. Commissioner Rennels stated that she was comfortable approving the request since it is fully budgeted and the requesting department has acknowledged that budget cuts may become necessary in the future and they will plan accordingly for that possibility.
M O T I O N
Commissioner Rennels moved that the Board of County Commissioners approve converting 2.5 FTE existing temporary positions to 2.5 FTE permanent full-time positions, and the current overstaffed Service Desk Group Manager Position (.5 FTE) be converted to 1 Full Time Equivalent permanent position.
Motion carried 2-1; Chair Gibson dissenting.
7. SUNSET REVIEW OF BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS: Mr. Lancaster requested direction on reviewing the Boards and Commissions to determine their viability and whether or not some of them should continue to meet. Commissioner Rennels suggested sending a questionnaire to members to gather feedback from them regarding the effectiveness of the board or commission they are serving on. Mr. Lancaster agreed to survey members and bring the results back to the Board.
8. RED FEATHER MOUNTAIN LIBRARY DISTRICT BOARD OF TRUSTEE APPOINTMENT: Ms. Tokarz presented the following recommendation for the Board to consider: Appointment of Nancy Johnson to the Red Feather Mountain Library District for a three-year term beginning January 1, 2008, and expiring December 31, 2011.
M O T I O N
Commissioner Eubanks moved that the Board of County Commissioners approve the appointment of Nancy Johnson to the Red Feather Mountain Library District for a three-year term beginning January 1, 2008, and expiring December 31, 2011.
Motion carried 3-0.
9. WORKSESSION: Chair Gibson explained that the Boys and Girls Club of Loveland are trying to raise funds to build a new facility and have requested monetary assistance from the Board of County Commissioners to support this effort. Commissioner Rennels stated that there are hundreds of worthy non-profit organizations and approving this request might set the wrong precedence, and cause many others to submit similar requests. Commissioner Eubanks asked to see the documentation prior to making a decision. This item will be discussed again at a future Administrative Matters meeting.
Mr. Lancaster explained that the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (NCWCD) will be updating the Board on their activities. He asked if the Board would prefer them to speak about the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), realizing that public comment would come later. The Board was agreeable to obtaining this update from the NCWCD.
Finally, Mr. Lancaster presented a change to the Commissioners' Workplan, which removed the second bullet under the Land Use section, he then asked for approval on the same.
M O T I O N
Commissioner Rennels moved that the Board of County Commissioners approve the changes to the Commissioners' Workplan as presented by Mr. Lancaster.
Motion carried 3-0.
10. COMMISSIONER REPORTS: The Board reviewed their activities at events during the past week.
11. LEGAL MATTERS: (Affidavit Provided)
M O T I O N
Commissioner Rennels moved that the Board of County Commissioners go into Executive Session for the purpose of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions, as outlined in 24-6-402-(4)(b) C. R. S.
Motion carried 3-0.
The meeting adjourned at 11:15 a.m., with no further action taken.
GLENN W. GIBSON, CHAIR
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
CLERK AND RECORDER
Gael M. Cookman, Deputy Clerk
Angela Myers, Deputy Clerk