Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Peaceful Valley Ranch... Questions Answered

     Today at 1:00 in the BOCC Hearing Room, the Peaceful Valley Boy Scout Ranch made its presentation to get a zoning change from Agricultural status to a PUD (Planned Unit Development), and it was unanimously approved by the Board.  In my blog yesterday I had pointed out that it was my fervent hope that all my questions in regards to this matter would prove to be groundless and that I could gain reassurance that the enormous BSA Ranch (Boy Scouts of America), my western neighbor, was not up to anything suspicious due to the fact that its parent organization has fallen on hard times in recent years. 

     The presentation was made.  It was thorough and the public was asked to make comments.  That was why I was there.  I had three minutes to make my points and ask my questions.  I spent my three minutes asking the questions at the top of my list and making a few observations, but I was unable to get to them all.  That is the way it works in a hearing. I went first and was relatively sure that others in the crowd would ask the questions I did not get to ask. My focus was on valuable water reserves and to point out that even though I was an ardent fan of the BSA, I viewed this recent downturn for the Scouts a potentially problematic situation.  Since the BSA was in trouble, this vast land was an asset that understandably could help them resolve financial issues if it were sold.  Since it is in Elbert County, there is a genuine thirst for their water reserves by neighboring communities.

I also took the time to point out that recent unrest toward the county government regarding what the citizenry viewed as unbridled development was in part fueling this present concern.  I pointed out that letters to the adjacent neighbors were vague and the county provided little information to those searching the topic online or over the phone.

In Elbert County, water issues always take center stage. As much as I admire the BSA, selling water rights or changes usages on the property was something I believed the public had to know about. This concern was adamantly addressed by the representatives from the BSR. No plans to sell the water or water rights.  They need the water that is there to be a successful organization.

Another one of my neighbors stood up and delivered her message to both the Board and to the assembled committee of officials from the BSA.  That was it.  There were no more questions from the public.  The Commissioners asked some pertinent questions designed to assuage the frazzled nerves of an audience that, in hindsight, seemed placid following the formal presentation. 

This meeting was a first for me in that the BOCC members actually brought up more points than did the audience in attendance.  Then the BSA answered even more questions and validated that yes, the Scouts, on a national level, had fallen on hard times, had sold numerous facilities and even water rights due to recent enrollment decline and lawsuits.  But they were also careful to point out that the Denver Area Council was not in the same financial lineage of some of those more notorious branches, and that, in fact, were making $18 million dollars worth of improvements.  They pointed out also that the agricultural contract with the Olkjer family and the partnership that they have with the BSA are viable and keeping the camp in good financial shape.

This is all good news.  This was what I wanted to hear.  I walked away feeling that I had done my civic duty.  Despite some criticisms online in a couple of venues and one person in the meeting who seemed to believe this was all about fear mongering, the meeting was informative and non-confrontational.  I followed up with the members of the BSA contingency and they were even kind enough to offer my wife and I a tour. 

I feel more at ease, but lest you think I have now become a fanboy of current development policies in the county, rest assured I have not. The point is that when you have questions that you feel are legitimate or not, it is your right to participate.  Do not let others dissuade you from getting the answers you want or need. Stand up and be heard.
     If something changes in regards to the PUD, the public was assured that the BSR would have to resubmit their application.  It is our responsibility as citizens to watch for changes like the ones proposed in today's BOCC meeting.  If it does, and it is posted, I will be right back there asking questions.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


A rural treasure, the Peaceful Valley Boy Scout Ranch which is 3,344 acres of unspoiled pristine beauty, is slated to do a presentation on Wednesday, August 28th at 1:00 PM before the Elbert County BOCC.  In short, they are asking for a PUD (Planned Unit Development) designation for the entire ranch.  Let that sink in.  A large 3,344 acre ranch that has vast reserves of groundwater, with prime building potential, is asking for a zoning change that would make it almost impossible for the average resident to challenge on any grounds.  This is the same land that has been coveted by wealthy shooting sports enthusiasts from around the nation for decades. The Travis Family Sporting Clays Facility is there and it is amazingly beautiful.  That said, the shooting enthusiasts and the surrounding landowners have been at odds since 2007.  There have been lawsuits and issues surrounding what that type of activity does to the tax exempt status of the BSA.  That is why when you see a shooting event at the ranch all of the literature points out that it is all for charity.  Under the current arrangement, the tax exempt status of the ranch is jeopardized by "for Profit" events.

Times change and it is no secret that the BSA is no longer as popular as it once was.  There has been national attention focused on the declining enrollment and the allegations of misconduct by a few Scout Masters that have the organization scrambling to stay financially solvent.  The only real assets owned by the Boy Scouts of America are tied up in vast parcels of land situated across the country. It is inevitable that downsizing is one of the options that the BSA must examine to help resolve some of their issues.

I love this ranch.  I live adjacent to it.  Part of the way I make my retirement income is by shooting wildlife photography. Believe me...there is incredible wildlife on the Boy Scout Ranch in our county, even photographed from a distant public road.  And, as a former school teacher of young children I believe the Boy Scout experience is good for the young men and women of our  country.

But I also live in Elbert County.  In recent years, our county has come under extreme pressure to sell our water and develop our land for the sprawl of Colorado's Front Range communities.

Below are some of the red flags that those of us who have examined this issue just in the last few hours are seeing.  Please take a look and understand why we should all have concerns and become involved.  Time is of the essence.  

• Why are there no specifics in the letters sent to adjacent properties about what is being proposed in the way of development?
• Since the Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch is comprised of numerous parcels of land, why is the entire ranch included in a planned unit development?
•  What does this PUD do to the tax exempt status of the ranch?
•  Why has it been so difficult to get specifics from the county on what is going on here when you attempt to call them or review documentation?
• Why does documentation for this proposal reference numerous Douglas County government decisions?
• Why are traffic studies, water reports and other documents (that any other developer is normally required to submit for such a proposal) out of date, and, in some cases, as many as four years old?
• Is there any relationship between the Economic Development Zone designation for Elbert Road being lauded by our commissioners and this proposal?
• Heliport next to the East gate of the ranch?

This post is sure to ruffle the feathers of our county government, but trust in our local governance is low and possibly waning more as you read this.  I want to be wrong about all of this.  I want someone to ease my deep sense of foreboding.  After viewing the BOCC's  new attitude of growth at any cost and turning a deaf ear to citizens' cries to slow down,  I am convinced many people need to show up at this meeting.  Again: Wednesday, August 28th, 1 PM before the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners.  Please attend.