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Propane company in Westcliffe gets extension, solar generating plant discussed in Silver Cliff

Article Originally published January 25, 2024

The Westcliffe Board of Trustees (BOT) held a regular meeting on January 16, and the Silver Cliff Planning Commission (PC) held a regular meeting on January 17.

Action items on the agenda for the Westcliffe BOT included approving a renewal of the Bluff Park lease with Colorado Open Lands; a vote on whether to extend or revoke the variance for Tim Broll’s propane business at the property at 57000 Hwy 69; consideration of a service con­tract with the Allyant Company to conduct maintenance and staff training for improving the town website’s accessibil­ity, per Colorado HB21-1110, (Colorado Laws for Persons With Disabilities); and a vote on Ordinance 1-2024, approv­ing a ballot question for the April 2024 election, making a permanent extension on the sales tax increase approved by voters five years ago (the sales tax increase, intended for infrastructure expenditures such as road and street improve­ments, is currently set to sunset as of December 31, 2024). All motions on the votes passed unanimously.

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With regard to consideration of revoking or extending the variance at 57000 Hwy 69, Town Manager Caleb Patterson revisited the conditions put forward in Resolution 3-2023, which granted the original variance, some of which had not yet been completed. Patterson cited in particular the installation of a 30,000-gallon propane storage tank, which was supposed to be completed as of December 21, 2023, and the installation of security lighting and fencing and a reflec­tive highway sign. He stated that the BOT had the option to revoke or renew the variance.

Mayor Paul Wenke asked Broll about the progress on the tank and other projects. “We got the tank set on the piers, everything is going pretty good,” Broll replied: “we ran a little behind schedule and over budget but we are still work­ing on it.” When asked how much time it would take to finish installation on the tank and the security lighting and fencing, Broll replied that he could probably finish it by the end of March but would prefer a six-month window. A motion to grant the extension of the variance until July 1, 2024, was passed unanimously.

In other business, the BOT passed Resolution 1-2024, making changes to the town handbook regarding holiday pay accrual for employees working four 10-hour days rather than five 8-hour days, and raising the Town Clerk’s salary to $62,000 per year.

The Silver Cliff PC meeting was largely devoted to a discussion of a “community solar garden” installation worksheet devised by Building and Zoning Official Isaac Selden.

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“This is something we are going to have to address,” said Chairman Larry Weber: “I think we do need to start addressing energy issues in the future because of EVs and such. We want to set it up so it’s feasible if it’s done right…we’ve actually got [solar array development] going on already, because we have solar panels on our house, but we are starting to get very big ones on residential properties. A lot of people don’t understand that if it gets up to a certain number of kilowatts, it affects their house insurance and also neighbors’ views – anyway, this is for the future and it’s the main topic of the evening.”

“It may not be too far in the future,” said member Steve Lasswell, “because I’ve heard from a solar developer who has applied to Black Hills Electric for permission to be part of their network in this vicinity. We’re at the end of the line for power and so [Black Hills] would view favorably a large solar array out here. The person I talked to said he knew he was going to have to interact with the town, but I don’t know if he’s done it yet.”

“There have been two pretty serious inquiries about solar gardens recently,” said Selden: “Without getting into specif­ics, it requires us to be prepared if there’s a developer who gets approved by Black Hills. We need to be ready.”

Selden said that he had developed his worksheet for Town Code requirements for solar development plans based on Weld County’s requirements as an example. The worksheet calls for addressing such issues as surface drain­age analysis, dust and weed mitigation, decommissioning and reclamation plans, construction transportation plan, and development requirements such as height limitations, setbacks, glare from the panels being directed away from neighbors, and other considerations such as fencing, signs, and stormwater management.

After discussion, the PC set a workshop date for January 31 at 5 p.m. to consider the requirements more carefully and come up with draft language for an ordinance.

In other business, the PC appointed a new member, Don Cook, and heard updates from member Dave Schneider on developments with Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District, and from Selden on Short-Term Rentals (STRs). Schneider reported that there has been a “cautious surge” of interest in water tap permits since the District lifted its moratorium on January 1: “more interest from developers than individuals at this point.”

“I reached out to a few current STR owners, they are send­ing in applications [for STR licenses],” Selden reported. “I am receiving others and enforcing code and doing inspections. If you run across people who have STRs who aren’t aware of what we’re doing, let them know – we are up and running.”

– Elliot Jackson

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