Whitewater rezoning paves way for growth

By LE ROY STANDISH

The zoning necessary for parts of Whitewater to urbanize is now in place.

The Mesa County Commission rezoned 2,105 acres from a predominant zoning of “agricultural forestry transition” to residential single-family and multi-use, which would allow for a mix of commercial and residential. The bulk of the property rezoned was east of U.S. Highway 50 and north of Reeder Mesa Road.

The mass rezoning was offered to all residents in an 8,789-acre planning area. Residents were given the opportunity to rezone their land for free, saving them a $500 application fee. Those who did not want to participate were allowed to opt out of the mass rezoning.

The Whitewater area is populated by just a couple thousand people, but Mesa County expects it to grow rapidly. That growth could begin to heat up in 2010, when property owners can begin hooking up to a new sewer line that will extend from Whitewater to Clifton Sanitation, 32 and D Road.

“This gives a whole new possibility of development for the Whitewater area,” said Christie Barton, a senior planner for Mesa County. “The area is changing from rural to urban densities.”

The Whitewater area, about 7 miles south of Grand Junction on U.S. Highway 50 and centered near its intersection with Reeder Mesa Road and Colorado Highway 141, is a hodgepodge of developments and characters who mostly seem to enjoy the freedom afforded to them by the area’s open spaces.

“For a small area it is very diverse,” Barton said.

A 50-year resident, Luther Martin Garber, said he has seen the worst of what Whitewater has to offer grow up around him. The community did not have a solid growth plan in the past to give it a vision for its future, he said. The result has been homes next to stables, commercial properties with bad access to the highway, few public amenities such as sidewalks and street lights, and other sins of development.

“At least they have a plan now,” said Garber, who owns several rental properties in Whitewater.

Randi Garcia, owner of the Desert Star B & B, 4000 Highway 50, which also offers horse stables, said the rezoning should not have waited until 2009.  The Whitewater area should have been developed years ago, “rather than cutting up the farmland,” she said.

The county held two open houses and notified residents with a series of letters in advance of Tuesday’s rezoning. About 150 people attended those meetings. 

Not everyone favored the rezoning.

“The reason most of the property owners are here is to live in a country setting and still live in close proximity to jobs and shopping in Grand Junction,” John and Mona Leonard wrote in a letter to the county, asking to be left out of the rezoning. “Several of the subdivisions have covenants to prevent subdividing the lots. ... This is the reason we chose this area to live.”


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