BoCC paves way for gasification plant, sawmill site near airport


By Randi Pierce

Staff Writer

The Sustainable Forest Development Minor Subdivision received final plat approval Tuesday afternoon, further paving the way for Renewable Forest Energy, LLC to develop the site near the airport.

The “green light” needed for RFE to develop the site came in two decisions at Tuesday’s meeting of the Archuleta County Board of County commissioners.

The first of those decisions granted the project the variance needed to subdivide the 37-acre parcel into three, smaller lots.

Because the property is zoned Agricultural Ranching, the minimum lot size in the county’s land use code is 35 acres.

The second decision subdivided the 37-acre lot into the smaller lots, in the form of the final plat for the Sustainable Forest Development Minor Subdivision.

In discussing the requests, County Planner Cindy Schultz said there were two options for creating the smaller lots — the variance or rezoning the property to industrial.

Because the property’s anticipated forestry uses (a sawmill and biomass gasification plant, for example) are consistent with the existing agricultural zoning and because the neighboring properties are primarily large-tract residential, Schultz said staff supported the variance as the preferred alternative.

In a later interview, owner J.R. Ford said the sawmill is currently being shipped to the site, though some permits and final approval have yet to be obtained.

Ford anticipates the sawmill will be functional by the end of the year.

As far as the biomass gasification power plant is concerned, Ford said he is still in negotiations for the plant and a best-case scenario would see the plant on site by the end of 2013, with a more likely timeline falling in mid 2014.

But, while there may only be piles of wood chips at the site, ready to fuel the gasification plant, the project is not sitting idle.

Ford said logging to remove root-rot trees at Williams Campground began last week and a Chris Mountain Stewardship Project is expected to be underway in mid to late October.