Commissioners approve Monument subdivision proposals

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The sketch plans to create residential plots on private property within Dinosaur National Monument were accepted by the county on Monday.

The Moffat County Board of County Commissioners accepted the plans for the subdivisions of the Mantle and Redrock Ranches that are within the Monument.

The two areas were designated as mountainous subdivisions.

A mountainous subdivision designation requires proper access for emergency vehicles to the developments. The designation also has fewer requirements and restrictions in reference to road size, condition, access, water and sewage services, and land use.

The 164-acre Mantle Ranch and the 360-acre Redrock Ranch are both owned and operated by the Mantle Ranch Real Estate Limited Partnership.

These two properties comprise the Mantle family's holdings within Dinosaur National Monument.

"It is a remote, unique piece of property," Lonnie Mantle said. "Given the hubbub of the modern world, I think this is property people will want to buy.

"[Our family] has been protective of this land. I think the buyers would be protective of the land, because that is why they bought it."

The National Park Service favored that the subdivisions be designated mountainous because of the lesser impact such developments would have on the area, Dinosaur National Monument Superintendent Chas Cartwright said.

"Moffat County made the decisions, and they have that authority. The Park Service will continue to comment as the plans are more developed," Cartwright said. "If the question is 'are we pleased by this?,' the answer is 'no.'

"The Park Service is aggressively pursuing getting an appraisal [of the Mantle property] as soon as possible. We would like to make an offer that would suit the Mantle's, and make it a friendly buyout that would be our clear preference. I don't know if we can achieve that, but we're sure going to try."

According to Tim Mantle, the Mantle family's private property will be sold to anyone who can afford it, including the federal government.

"This is private property being sold, just like private property anywhere. It's a non-discriminatory process," he said. "But if you look around, the government is gaining a title to a lot of private property. You have to ask 'Who's going to pay the bill?' Taxpayers support the government, some of that from property taxes what the hell do they need the land for? If [the government] owns the land, they can't collect taxes from it.

"This is a one-of-a-kind area. If [owning land in the Monument] is what people would like to do, we'd like to let them do it."

The family will continue ranching on other lands they own, Mantle said.

The commissioners also approved a zone change from Agricultural to Rural Residential for the Mantle Ranch.

The plan proposes that the Mantle Ranch would be divided into 31 lots the smallest of which would be two acres, which is why the Rural Residential zoning is required.

The Red Rock Ranch would be divided into 55 lots, all of which would be over 5 acres. No zoning change is required for the larger lots, so they will remain zoned for agriculture.

Both subdivision sketch plans were accepted by the board with two access roads that are legal accesses as proven by court documents provided by Steven Baker of Baker and Associates, who are working with the Mantle family on the proposals.

The board's approval carried the stipulation that neither subdivision will have winter maintenance of the access roads, nor will any of the access roads be maintained at a higher level than the work presently done by the county.

The board also required that the Redrock Ranch Subdivision proposal needs to have one road widened to 60 feet before the plans will be accepted into the preliminary stage. The road needs to be widened to ensure emergency vehicle access and maneuverability.

After the proposals are labeled preliminary plans, there will be another opportunity for public input, revisions or adjustments.

Then, if approved by the board, the proposals will become final plans, at which point the Mantle's can begin selling or developing the property.

"This is no different that what any other property owners could do with their land," Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said. "Our role is making sure they follow the [planning] process, and that a plan balances the needs of the landowner and his neighbors."

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