Fraser Valley land dispute heats up after trustee pens opinion piece
Tensions are rising in a local land-use dispute after an opinion piece written by Fraser Trustee Andy Miller began to draw criticisms.
Miller suggested in his column, which appeared in the Oct. 20 edition of the Winter Park Times, a bi-weekly newspaper that publishes in Winter Park, that the Samuelson family, operating Hither’s Edge Ranch in the Fraser Valley, should be able to complete commercial work on their ranch. That is, despite restrictions in the county’s zoning regulations and a cease and desist order from the county.
The Samuelsons operate a fencing company out of their 40-acre piece of land, along with youth camps, horsemanship clinics, weddings and more. The businesses are being operated on a forestry and open zone district, which requires special use permits to operate certain commercial businesses.
Miller said the point of his column was to point out issues with county zoning.
“What I really wanted to focus in on was the common use of forestry and open districts for light industry, or for some excavation for things that are just commonly going on all over the place,” said Miller. “This is what the neighbors have jumped on and are requiring a special use permit for, which I think is fine.
“When that goes to hearing though we’ve got to begin to look hard at what’s commonly going on with forest and open. How we either facilitate that, or if the opinion of the Grand County masses is that it shouldn’t be facilitated than how can we change this common use of forest and open.”
The Samuelsons are set to make their case for special use permits to operate their businesses during a County Planning Commission meeting on Aug. 8, though several neighbors have spoken out as part of a growing resistance to the application.
Neighbors of the Samuelsons were quick to respond to Miller’s article, calling it poorly researched and highly biased. They complained that the businesses and events at the Hither’s Edge Ranch have become nuisances in a number of ways, and that the Samuelsons shouldn’t get special treatment despite their history in the county and standing as full-time residents.
“A few years ago Ehren [Samuelson], who is a very hard working and ambitious young man, started a fencing operation,” said Ralph Klomp, a neighbor of the Samuelsons. “First it was quite small, and he actually did some work for me about 12 years ago. But it has morphed into a busy operation.
“The Samuelsons applied for a special use permit for a wedding venue, sawmill, fencing operation, hemp greenhouse and a number of activities. All of a sudden it turned from this little peaceful community to where all the homes are dealing with dust, noise, pollution and everything else that goes with that.”
This sentiment was reiterated by a number of neighbors who also complained about unsafe road conditions, increased traffic and other issues. Some even cited concerns regarding an increased risk of fires and water pollution as a result of the businesses.
“This is a residential area that’s heavily treed,” said Paul Larkings, another neighbor who lives up the valley. “We’re very concerned about having a sawmill operation running in essentially a residential area. We’ve got the risk of fire, water pollution. There’s environmental issues beyond these which haven’t even been studied.”
The Samuelson family declined to be interviewed for this story, citing legal concerns. They provided the following statement: “On behalf of TM Fencing, Samuelson Outfitters and the Samuelson and Pearson families, because of the sensitivity of ongoing issues the responsible parties at hand plan to schedule an interview with Sky-Hi News after the public hearing on November 8 at 6:30 p.m.”
Despite a seemingly contentious relationship between the Samuelsons and some of their neighbors, most just want the issue solved and the businesses moved off the property.
“I like the Samuelsons,” said Klomp. “They’re good people. We just want to get it resolved and move on.”
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