Bob Silbernagel Column January 11, 2009

Newcomers should respect area’s agricultural traditions

In the first few years after we purchased our property near Palisade, some friends and I conducted occasional and successful pheasant hunts there.

Such hunts are no longer an option, however. Unlike 20 years ago, there’s no direction in which you can fire a shotgun from our property these days where you aren’t in danger of pelting a house with pellets.

Development has encroached on our idyllic world. How could the county commissioners allow this to happen?

Oh wait. We knew when we bought the land in 1986 that we and our neighbors could sell parcels in 5-acre plots or larger, and houses could be built on them. Guess we don’t have much room to complain.

In fact, since we bought our home and land, Mesa County and the three municipalities in the valley have created the community separator project, better known as buffer zones. The project prevents property from being densely developed in areas between Clifton and Palisade, Grand Junction and Fruita.

We’re in the Palisade buffer zone, and happily so. Even though we have more houses than we used to in our neighborhood, we don’t have the prospect of hundred-home subdivisions going up on adjacent property.

That reduces the likelihood that some future neighbor will object to the aroma and the dust created by our horses.

Horse folks like Connie Klauzer and Arthur Blom haven’t been so lucky. As recorded by The Daily Sentinel’s Le Roy Standish last Tuesday, thanks to encroaching development, their horse operations are now cheek by jowl with large subdivision. Some of the new homeowners object to the equine atmosphere. They have strewn trash on Klauzer’s land and thrown rocks at her horses. One developer has asked to build houses within 100 feet of Blom’s barn, even though that is proscribed under county rules. He will have to wait until Blom decides to retire from the horse business, the commissioners decreed.

But the continuing problems with neighbors have prompted Klauzer, Blom and others to ask the commissioners to stiffen county rules that protect agriculture.

It is a continuing problem that doesn’t just affect those of us with horses.

A few months from now, farmers will begin burning ditches and fields to improve water flow and growth. And The Daily Sentinel will start receiving its annual barrage of letters to the editor and “You Said It” items complaining about the burning, even though it has been a traditional agricultural practice in this region since long before the first white settlers arrived.

The Utes often burned meadows to improve grass for their horses, historical records show.

Some newcomers to the area complain about the spraying of pesticides on fruit or farmland, although for fruitgrowers an equally serious problem may be the reverse — new residents with backyard fruit trees near commercial orchards who refuse to spray their trees, thereby allowing pests to migrate to commercial trees.

There are drivers who get irate about slow-moving farm vehicles on the roads, and unfettered dogs are a perpetual problem for those raising livestock.

Twenty years ago, we almost never had problems with the availability of irrigation water on the ditch that serves our property. Now, because the increased numbers of lawns and homeowners further down our ditch who irrigate every day, that can be a problem even in a wet year.

These problems have been developing for decades. They aren’t the fault of the current county commissioners. In fact, all of the county commissioners in the past who approved subdivisions in agricultural areas did so because there was a demand for that sort of housing. They would never have been elected or re-elected if they had sought to block all development in agricultural areas.

And no one set of county commissioners is going to solve the problem. But they can help, by continuing to enforce things like new home setbacks from agricultural operations.

But developers of subdivisions in or adjacent to agricultural areas, and the newcomers who move into those homes, have an obligation to understand and respect the agricultural traditions that long predated them.


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