County hopes plan will put sheep fight to rest


It might be a while before local officials decide the best means of settling a dispute between a family and its neighbors on Thompson Hill.

Two months ago Moffat County resident Milo McPherson brought a petition signed by neighbors from six homes on Thompson Hill to the county commission requesting the removal of "illegal sheep" owned by Jim and Marge Kourlis.

At Wednesday's Moffat County Commission meeting, Planning Director Sue Graler, who had addressed the concerns in the petition and answered questions asked by neighbors in a May meeting, made recommendations on how to move forward with the issue.

Much of the problem, she said, stems from the fact that all properties are not zoned the same on Thompson Hill.

Most of the properties are zoned residential, which would make it illegal to graze sheep.

But the property owned by the Kourlises is zoned rural residential, giving them a right to graze sheep on their property.

The number of sheep that can be grazed on rural residential property is not outlined in the definition of rural residential property. The number allowed is set by the commissioners when they grant conditional use permits.

Last year Graler said the Kourlises were grazing about 80 sheep, but a limit set in a conditional use permit reduced that number to 20 ewes and 15 black lambs with which the Kourlises have complied.

But policy does state that livestock cannot be grazed for commercial use in rural residential zone, which the Kourlises are doing, Graler said.

"A commercial operation is not permitted in this zoning," Graler said. "Reducing the number of sheep is not the solution to this zoning violation. Defining the number of sheep for family use and commercial use would allow some sheep to remain on the property."

The problem lies in those wordings, she said.

"I'm going to send Thompson Hill residents a letter saying there is no clear definition of what family use and commercial use is," she said. "We need to develop a clearer definition of those two findings."

That will have to go through a public process with the planning board, Graler said.

But first the overall situation might be addressed in a city/county plan being developed that will be finished this winter.

"It's an issue that could be addressed in the master plan," Graler said. "Do we want that area to be more residential or more agricultural?"

The master plan will address growth issues for the future of Craig and Moffat County outlining how, and how much the community hopes to grow in the future.

The map of the Thompson Hill area shows an inconsistency in properties zoned in the area.

"It looks like they just zoned property however owners wanted it zoned," said Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson while looking at the map Wednesday morning. "In going through this we're going to have to look at what's reasonable."

Commissioner Les Hampton pointed out that Thompson Hill is not in the city limits.

"We always talk about Thompson Hill as if it's part of the city but we need to remember it's not," he said.

The master plan might help to decide what the future hold for Thompson Hill residents, Graler said.

"Whatever ressults from the master plan is what we will go out and say needs to be done," Graler said.

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