Montezuma County, Colorado

Montezuma County, population 23,830 (2000) occupies the southwestern corner of Colorado. The county contains Mesa Verde National Park as well as several other historic sites.

In April 2002, the County Board appointed a Citizen Working Group to study programs and solutions for protecting water quality, rural character, agricultural, aesthetics and property values in the Dolores River Valley. The Dolores River rises near Telluride and runs southwest to the Town of Dolores. The river is the primary source of water for the Town of Dolores, the City of Cortez and much of the unincorporated part of Montezuma County. Prior to 2003, the Dolores River Valley was not zoned and the County Board typically approved requests to create three-acre lots. The Dolores River Working Group met for one year and completed a set of recommendations which included the imposition of a one unit per ten acre density limit and the use of TDR to protect property rights as well as water quality, scenic values, farmland and rural character.

In December 2003, the County adopted an addendum to its Land Use Code in response to the recommendations of the Dolores River Working Group. The 2003 Addendum created a minimum lot size in the Dolores River Valley of ten acres and required all lots to have at least 30 percent of their area in developable land. To be developable, land must be less than 30 percent slope and capable of supporting a septic system. In addition, all buildings and septic systems must be set back 100 feet from stream banks.

In September 2004, Montezuma County amended its Land Use Plan, providing policy support for a TDR program in the Dolores River Valley. In October 2004, the County Board implemented the Plan by adopting a TDR Ordinance for the Dolores River Valley. Sending and receiving areas are within the Valley boundaries. Property owners can apply to exceed the one unit per ten acre baseline density when they transfer density from other parcels within the Valley.

Sending areas must have at least ten undeveloped acres. Parcels with slope of less than 30 degrees are allocated one TDR per ten acres of land outside the floodplain and 1.5 TDRs per ten acres within the floodplain. TDRs can be calculated to one-tenth of one TDR. Once TDRs have been transferred, the sending site cannot be developed unless TDRs are purchased and attached to the parcel. Severed TDRs may float until the owner chooses to use them at a receiving site.

Receiving areas are approved through the County’s High Impact Permit and Subdivision requirements. Receiving areas cannot be approved unless impacts can be adequately mitigated. To exceed baseline density, one TDR must be surrendered for each residential unit in excess of the baseline density of one unit per ten acres. Receiving sites may be within the floodplain, however, within a floodplain, 1.5 TDRs are required per bonus unit. The maximum density when TDR is used is one unit per three acres. The Ordinance specifies that TDR requirements cannot be circumvented by Urban Services Zoning or the availability of centralized water. In addition, accessory residential units, including guest and caretaker units, must meet the TDR requirements. TDR requirement is satisfied by attaching a copy of the TDR deeds to the High Impact Permit or Subdivision Plat and recording these documents.

TDRs can be used to allow bonus multiple-family residential development and non-residential development as well as bonus single-family residential dwelling units. The program uses wastewater effluent volume and strength as the conversion factor. The effluent from one single-family dwelling is used as the constant and TDR requirements for other uses are determined by how the effluent from those uses compares with the effluent volume and strength from a single-family residence. For example, as shown in the table below, one room at a hotel/motel produces roughly one third the effluent volume/strength as a single family home; consequently, one TDR allows three bonus hotel/motel rooms. The following table provides the TDR requirements for the uses considered most likely in the Valley. But the Ordinance allows the TDR requirement for uses not on the chart to be determined using the same methodology.

Apartments: 1 TDR per apartment unit
Mobile Home Park: 1 TDR per space
Luxury Resort with Restaurant: two rooms per TDR
Hotels and Motels: three rooms per TDR
Travel Trailer Parks: four spaces per TDR
Churches: 105 seats per TDR
Golf Course (excluding shop/restaurant): 25 operational days per TDR
Restaurant: eight seats per TDR
Cocktail Bar: 26 seats per TDR
Retail Store: 1,500 square feet per TDR
Service Station: four toilets/750 square feet per TDR

In a December 2005 update, Jim Siscoe, County Resource Specialist, reported that plats were being prepared to determine the number of TDRs available to two potential sending area properties and that roughly ten developers or property owners had inquired about the TDR provisions.