Hot Sulphur Springs works on town’s 20-year vision
The town of Hot Sulphur Springs is putting imagination into action with a comprehensive plan for the next two decades. On Nov. 10, community members attended a town hall meeting to discuss what they envision for Hot Sulphur’s future.
The town’s comprehensive plan outlines its objectives to guide community growth and development. With a view into the future, the town will determine policies on utilities, land and water use, zoning, recreation, housing and overall community culture.
According to planning documents presented at the meeting, the town’s vision statement is, “Hot Sulphur Springs will define itself as an independent, resilient community by applying responsible development patterns and regulated economic expansion. Compatible land uses will dictate future growth, complementing and enhancing the town’s existing rural character while maintaining its small-town charm and natural beauty as it grows.”
Antero Group, a Denver-based urban planning, design and strategic consulting firm, presented potential plans. Antero Group’s managing principal Eric Neagu, project manager Vita Khosti and senior project engineer Genevieve Nemeth worked with residents to go over Hot Sulphur’s housing, recreation and business opportunities.
Neagu laid out the questions the meeting would address — “How do you grow, if you grow, and what are those changes like?”
There is currently a moratorium on town development, meaning only single-family homes can be constructed in the town’s boundaries. The moratorium, placed in January 2021, is set to expire in March 2023. Antero Group will collaborate with town officials to put a robust comprehensive plan in place once the moratorium is lifted.
Neagu explained that 25% of the property in town is underdeveloped, with 67 acres that have the potential to become housing or commercial spaces.
“Is that something you want to explore … and what are the consequences of not updating and modifying some of your policies?” he asked community members, adding that the town’s zoning codes haven’t been updated since 1998.
Neagu, Khosti and Nemeth then presented options for developing residential properties in town. Their proposed lots were 0.5 acres to maintain a spread-out, rural feel, with lots of landscaping options. The group also presented options for commercial development.
Many residents were concerned about unbridled development and wanted to steer away from the buildout of tourist amenities and high-density homes that’s occurring in eastern Grand County. Other residents were concerned about the impacts of development on the environment.
“What happens to the wildlife?” one resident asked. “I like seeing the foxes and deer … I don’t want to see this turn into Summit County.”
Nemeth explained Antero Group is dedicated to environmentally conscious development, which has been highlighted as a top priority for the community.
“We’ve talked to Colorado Parks and Wildlife about … potential future trails and making sure those are in areas that wouldn’t disturb wildlife because that is an element of the town’s natural beauty,” she said.
Resident Steve Skinner, who works as a producer for the community radio station, KFFR 88.3 FM, expressed concern that Hot Sulphur’s water supply wouldn’t allow enough taps for extensive development, especially in light of the Colorado River crisis.
“Denver Water’s already taking 60% of the water that should be coming through here right now. … That’s water that doesn’t get to the river,” he said. “I don’t think this plan can go off in silo; it needs to be in concert with every single water user up and down this valley.”
Town Clerk Jessie Webb explained that Hot Sulphur has senior Colorado River rights that are secured to support moderate development. The town is working on improving its water and sewer infrastructure, including building a groundwater reservoir. This will reduce their reliance on the diminishing river.
“Public works … have worked extensively with the team of engineers on capacity studies,” Webb said. “So they do know where both the water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plants are at, what they can currently service, and how much room they have to grow in the future.”
Residents also expressed a desire for affordable housing to support the workforce for businesses like Hot Sulphur Springs Spa and government institutions.
After lots of discussion, the residents at the meeting confirmed they support carefully-controlled development while keeping the town’s close-knit character intact.
“We have to be careful with how many VRBOs and how much tourism we bring,” a community member stated. “I’ve lived all over Colorado and this is one of the last bastions of quiet, pure, Colorado serenity — a peaceful little neck of the woods.”
On Thursday, Dec. 1, the town will meet with members of Antero Group to discuss results of the community engagement meeting. The meeting will take place 6:30 p.m. at town hall (513 Aspen St.), and is open to the public.
Residents can visit HotSulphurSprings2040.com to learn more about Hot Sulphur’s comprehensive plan. They can also complete an online survey on how they would like to see their town evolve while maintaining its traditional character.
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