Salida Colorado Relocation Information
The Colorado mountain town of Salida draws year-round visitors, especially during the warmer months when they can enjoy all of the region's storied treasures. Oftentimes, a short visit turns into a yearning for a 'permanent' stay in our cozy Rocky Mountain town with its collection of dizzying spoils.
Despite having all the right stuff to morph into yet one more high-dollar, glittering Rocky Mountain resort, Salida has somehow managed to stem the concrete tide of development. Perhaps it is the town's protected location nestled amongst mountainous buffer zones. Salida citizens, however, like to think that the tranquility and beauty of their town was spared through their continued efforts to preserve their slice of Rocky Mountain heaven. And it is true, the folks in this mountain take great pride in the natural richness and legendary beauty of the Salida region. Consequently, the community is very protective of this outdoors paradise.
Ask anyone in Chaffee County and they will tell you that we live in one of the most spectacular areas in the entire country. And, ask our visitors and they will echo these same sentiments. You are welcome to join us and experience life in "the Gem of the Rockies" where the horizons are breathtaking and the possibilities endless. Once here, we are sure that you too will become a steward of this naturally rich, Rocky Mountain enclave.
Buying Property in Colorado
A wise buyer is an informed buyer. This is especially true in the state of Colorado where the fluctuations in the real estate market have jarred some nerves, although not to the degree felt in some other U.S. regions. The state of Colorado, and especially the mountain town of Salida, still remain as a coveted area in which to live and this is reflected in the real estate prices. Despite its popularity, Salida remains as one of the few towns of its kind that is still affordable. So if you are considering buying a piece of Salida real estate, educate yourself accordingly.
Be Sure the Property is a Legal Parcel
The property is a legal parcel when it is:
- a lot within an approved platted subdivision, or
- a parcel that was approved by an Exemption from subdivision, or
- at least 35 acres,
- the land was divided by deed executed before May 5, 1972.
Recommendation: Hire a professional surveyor and get a survey, not just an improvement location certificate; then, verify the survey against existing conditions, making sure all easements are identified and that your surveyor files the plat with the Chaffee County Clerks Office. Remember that the Chaffee County Assessor's maps do not establish legal parcels. Because topography in the mountains was not always considered when older subdivision plats were drawn, roads, structures and fences were not always built where planned, and setbacks from property lines were not always respected. Mountain areas have unique legal and environmental conditions that you may want to consider. Before you buy a parcel of land, make sure it has a buildable site with sufficient space for a home, well, septic, and road access and that it is not in a flood zone or other natural hazard.
Proof of Access
To verify proof of access be sure that:
- the property abuts a county or state-owned or state-maintained road; or
- there is a deeded access easement which directly connects the property to a county road, or a state-owned or state-maintained road. The easement must be the minimum width required by the property's zoning (60 feet).
- Get an access permit from the Chaffee County Road & Bridge Department before cutting a road to access a county road. You need a CDOT permit to access a state highway.
- Get written permission from the ditch company or ditch owner before placing a culvert in a ditch.
- Contact the Army Corp of Engineers if you need to cross a major stream or river with a culvert or bridge.
Before engineering the final road grade, it would be desirable to consult with the Chaffee County Building Department, the local Fire Department and Chaffee County Road & Bridge Department to determine what road standards are required. Sensitive design and construction of roads and driveways to minimize scarring is important, especially in visual corridors. Any grading that is done must comply with the Chaffee County regulations. Disturbed soil must be revegetated and noxious weed control rules and regulations must be adhered to.
Zoning, Land Development Regulations, Land Use Plans, and Ownership of the Property and Surrounding Land
A visit to the Chaffee County Planning and Zoning Department is recommended. The staff can assist you with checking the plans and reviewing the current regulations that apply to your property.
Zoning Maps and Regulations
You can find out whether the existing structures and the intended uses of the property comply with current zoning standards and the adopted building code; you can get the same information for the surrounding properties as well. Special conditions—such as geological and flood hazards, etc.—are shown on the maps. You can also determine if your property can be further subdivided and whether County review and/or platting will be required.
Community Land Use and Special County Plans
During your visit with the Planning and Zoning Department, you can learn about recommendations for future land uses, roads, services, and the constraints that will be considered if rezoning of properties is contemplated. Also, the staff can provide information about other County plans that may affect your property, such as the Open Space Master Plan and the County Major Road Plan. This pre-purchase research can help potential buyers avoid unpleasant surprises.
Ownership of Surrounding Land
Property ownership of surrounding land can be checked at the Chaffee County Assessor's office. Vacant land can be developed, even when it is in public and/or community ownership, and it may prevent unpleasant surprises to know what potential development could occur. Remember that when you move into a rural area, expect a rural living environment without extensive rules regarding noise, smells, recreation, farming, and wildlife. That's why it's called 'rural living.' If you want a regulated environment, we recommend living in the incorporated towns and cities within our county.
Constraints That Might Prevent or Hinder Development
In mountain areas, constraints on development may not be easily seen or discovered in a cursory review. Again, the County Planning and Zoning Department is a good place to begin your investigation. The Department can alert you to conditions affecting your property and direct you to any agency or department that can further assist you.
- Find out if there are mineral and/or water rights owned by another party, which take precedence over other development rights.
- Check for easements on your property and adjacent properties. These easements may include: road and trail access, utility lines, and communications towers.
- Check for existing and/or abandoned mines on the property and in the general area. Find out what areas were mined, are being mined, or have been permitted for mining and if the abandoned mine openings have been sealed. This information can be obtained from the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Division of the Colorado State Department of Natural Resources.
- Flood plains and geologic hazards are not always obvious but many such hazards are shown on maps at the Chaffee County Planning and Zoning Department. Special development regulations may apply in these areas.
- Radon gas can be a potential problem and special techniques to ensure safety are less costly when installed during construction of a building. Radon test kits are available to test existing buildings for the presence and level of radon gas.
Note: A review of the exceptions, which are listed in your title insurance document on Schedule B, can be informative.
Water and Sanitation
Public districts as well as private corporations and associations provide water and sanitation in the mountains. You will need to find out if your property is within the existing or expansion boundaries for the specific district. The district can advise you about the availability of water and sewer taps and the fee schedule. However, most of the mountain areas are served by individual wells and septic systems.
The following information is intended to help prospective residents better understand the unique aspects of water and sanitation service in the mountain areas.
Wells as a Source of Water
The Colorado Office of the State Engineer issues well permits and determines the type of water usage allowed. This is the office to consult with to determine if: a well permit has been issued for the property; an existing well has been registered with the state; a permit to re-drill a well has been granted; or, if a subdivided parcel qualifies for a well permit. It is important to transfer the well permit to your name after the property is purchased. While the State Engineer [phone (303) 866-3581] can provide information about the legal aspects of wells, other facets of well water usage in mountain areas you may want to consider include the following:
- The type of well permit should be suitable for your desired use.
- The reliability of water supply varies widely by area in the mountains. Factors such as the location, depth, and casing of wells are important, and the distance between the well and septic system(s) is especially important. This holds for your property and adjacent properties. Where livestock—including horses and cattle—is allowed, the casing and depth of the well may need to be engineered to prevent well contamination.
- Recharge and well production rates should be checked.
- Water quality tests for bacteria, nitrates, radioactivity, etc., may be desirable.
- New wells and re-fracturing of wells can be expensive and there are no guarantees that water will be found. You may want to cover this contingency in your written contract by including the existence of a producing well as a condition of purchase.
Types of Wells
Domestic wells may, but not always, serve up to three dwelling units, livestock, and limited irrigation.
Household-use wells allow inside-house-water use for one dwelling unit and may allow watering of domestic, noncommercial animals. The conditions attached to well water use, specified in the well permit, should be checked to ensure that your particular needs can be served. Generally, water consumption per dwelling unit is estimated to be 298 gallons per day.
Note: Subdivisions platted after 1972 are required to have a water augmentation plan or to be served by a water district. It is important to inquire about the status of water augmentation plans as well as the financial solvency of a district.
Public water districts and private water companies serve more densely developed mountain communities and some subdivisions. These districts are self-governed by elected and/or appointed officers empowered to operate the district, grant water taps, set fees, etc.
Availability of water taps may vary. Also, some properties within a water district may be served by wells.
Septic Systems Used for Sanitation
The Chaffee County Department of Health and Environmental Services issues septic system permits for property not inside a sanitation district. This department determines the septic suitability of the land. The soil type, lot size, topography, proximity to wells and surface water, and the existence of surface water and well contamination in the area determine suitability. Property served by public water may use septic systems for waste treatment.
While the Health Department can determine conditions for a septic system permit, other things you may want to consider include the following:
- Septic tanks and leach fields can malfunction.
- Septic tanks need regular maintenance and may need to be emptied periodically, which is recommended prior to the sale of property.
- Many areas require engineered septic systems that are mounded (above grade) due to high water tables. Wetlands and areas in or near irrigated lands usually fall into this category. Note: Septic system design is generally based on the number of bedrooms planned for the structure. Records on an existing system should be checked to verify the size of house it was designed to serve.
Public sanitation service in mountain areas is provided by a limited number of water and sanitation districts, which control the issuance of sewer taps and set fee schedules.
Package sanitation systems serve a few developments and more often are used for commercial development. A property owners association that collects dues maintains these systems. Homeowners in an association share in the liability for operation, maintenance, and replacement of these expensive systems.
Septic systems are often used for wastewater treatment, even when property is inside a public sanitation district. When these existing systems fail, the owner may be required to connect to the public sewer line if service to the site is available.
Water is an incredibly valuable resource in Colorado. Someone or some entity owns the water in most streams and in all ditches. Colorado water law is one of the strongest in the nation. Use the following steps as a water guide:
- Don't use water from a ditch or stream unless you have documented water rights for that ditch or stream.
- Water must be taken from a ditch using the approved head gate to measure water.
- Head gates cannot be modified or moved without the approval of the ditch company. Only ditch owners can operate head gates.
- Don't move ditches on your property without checking with the ditch company or ditch owner.
Building Permit Requirements
To get a building permit, the parcel and improvements must:
- be a legal parcel
- meet the minimum lot size, setbacks, and other requirements required by the zoning (there are limited exceptions to these requirements)
- meet the requirements for minimum lot size for septic system installation
- meet the location and separation requirements for well and septic systems on the property and on adjacent properties
- have proof that a sewer tap is available when the property is within a sanitation district, or obtain a permit for an individual sanitation system
- have proof of a source of water. This can be an existing well, a valid well permit, and/or proof that a public water tap is available when the property is within a water district.
- have road access from a county-road or state-owned or state-maintained road.
- have a valid access permit from the county or municipality
- have a valid address assigned to the property.
Note: In some old mountain subdivisions, small and/or oddly shaped lots were created which may not qualify for a building permit because one or more of the conditions listed above cannot be met. Also, there are properties that can be subdivided only after a required county review, and /or after a subdivision plat is approved. Building permit information is available in the Planning and Zoning Department.
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Mountain Living Services
Most services are available, e.g., telephone, electric, but the level and consistency of services may be different than urban area services. Some things to consider are stated below.
Installation and operational costs may be higher than costs in the urban area. Many of the types of services and service speeds are not available in remote areas.
Electric service is available, generally, but may require extensions of service over private easement. Most appliances and some home heating devices are electric and rates may be higher.
Natural gas is available in some areas; propane, a form of compressed gas, is more common. Propane is stored in metal tanks and requires delivery.
Most areas have trash collection available through private contractors, otherwise property owners are responsible for hauling trash to designated disposal sites.
The Chaffee County Sheriff's Department is responsible for law enforcement. Response time tends to be longer if your property is far from a highway or a county road and can be affected by inclement weather, illegible address signs, distance to be traveled, and road configuration.
Not all mountain areas are served by a fire protection district, so it is advisable to check fire protection district boundaries to determine if the property will be served. The fire district or department can tell you how the property can get fire protection if you are not in a district.
Home insurance rates vary by fire protection district and can be higher than in urban areas. Volunteer fire districts and departments serve mountain areas. The level of protection provided depends on the availability and proximity to a water source, distance of a structure from a fire station, type and number of vehicles, number of volunteers and training, and the amount of forest thinning and other safety measures homeowners undertake to reduce wildfire threat. It is a good idea to meet with fire district/department and Colorado Forest Service representatives on the property, prior to purchase, to find out what fire safety measures they recommend.
Note: Check with the fire district/department to find out if fire and emergency vehicles can access the property in all types of weather, and what can be done to improve access, if necessary. Fire cisterns are recommended.
Wild land fires are a major concern for residents living in mountain subdivisions that are in or abut heavily forested areas. As more forested lands are subdivided, the potential for loss of life and property caused by wildfire is an ever-increasing problem. In 1994, there were 1,493 wildfires in Colorado that burned 52,106 acres.
As a homeowner living or building in areas where wildfire can occur, you can protect your home and preserve the surrounding forest by taking the following precautions recommended by the Colorado State Forest Service:
- Choose a fire safe location.
- Check with local officials to see what fire protection is available.
- Evaluate the site—level is better than sloped.
- Provide easy access for emergency vehicles—a narrow, winding driveway can impede or block access of larger emergency vehicles.
- Clearly mark your location, e.g., address sign, so fire fighters can easily find your residence.
- Design and build fire-safe structures.
- The number one danger is untreated wood shake roofs.
- Walls should be made of fire resistant materials from the ground to the roof overhang.
- Minimize the size and number of windows on the side of the house that would more likely be exposed to a fire.
- Develop fire-safe habits and have a regular program of shrub and tree thinning and maintenance, especially the removal of dead and diseased trees.
- Have chimneys and flues cleaned and inspected regularly. Stack firewood well away from your home or outbuildings.
- Dispose of fireplace ash in a metal, covered container, and place the container away from decks and other potential fuel areas. Remember, embers can burn for days.
- Sweep gutters, eaves and roofs regularly. Have several preplanned safety exits in case of fire.
- Install smoke detectors and have several ABC-type fire extinguishers at various locations throughout the house, the garage, and any outbuildings.
- Create a "defensible space" around your structure, as recommended by the Colorado State Forest Service. Perform regular maintenance to maintain the defensible space.
Should you have questions or need additional information regarding wildfire, contact the fire department for your area, the Colorado State Forest Service, or the Chaffee County Planning and Zoning Department.
Health and Emergency Services
Chaffee County has excellent medical facilities, general medical practitioners and medical specialists. Chaffee County Emergency Medical Service (CCEMS) covers the entire county; the hospital in Salida has a heliport for emergency evacuation and the city airport can serve air ambulance service. CCEMS has four ambulances, all of which are licensed for advanced life support. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) from basics through paramedic level are used to staff two full-time advanced life-support ambulances 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. Emergency response time varies, based on a number of factors, as it does for fire and law protection as well. The further your home is from Salida or Buena Vista, the longer the response time will be. Road conditions and weather can affect response time.
Private driveway and private road plowing is the responsibility of property owners. Most subdivision roads are private roads; homeowners associations must contract with a private contractor for plowing. While county roads are plowed, big snowstorms can result in travel delays. In some areas, residents prefer a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
County roads are plowed on a priority basis. For more information on specific roads see the road department section on the home page. School bus routes and highly traveled county roads are first priority. The farther out and remote you live, the lower the priority for road snow removal and maintenance. During large storms it may take two or three days before your road is plowed. Also county crews can only plow county roads and during this plowing will most likely leave a pile of snow at the end of your driveway. There is no reasonable way for the road crews to get the roads cleaned and keep your driveway entrance clear, that is your responsibility. If you cannot clean your driveway or driveway entrance, we suggest you contract with a private plow company. If you have special medical needs, we suggest an annual contract with a private plowing company to be on call in the event of a storm.
Everyday Living Conditions
The mountain temperatures can be ten or more degrees (F) cooler than the metropolitan area, so heating costs, solar orientation, R-values of structure, etc., may be important considerations.
While heating with wood is sometimes done, restrictions on wood burning may apply and new stoves must meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. As an option, new gas burning fireplaces or wood pellet stoves can be installed.
Snowstorms are frequent in the mountains; homes at high altitudes and in remote areas should be prepared for storms. Summer rainstorms can flood normally dry drainages, cutting off road accesses.
Homeowner associations exist in some subdivisions, and a limited number of umbrella organizations, representing multiple homeowners associations, have been created. Some subdivisions also have restrictive covenants that should be investigated prior to the purchase of property. The county does not enforce these covenants. Homeowner associations may be responsible for roads, water systems, and sanitation systems. The county will not accept subdivision roads as new county roads.
The Buena Vista R-31 and Salida R-32 School Districts can provide information about school locations, attendance areas, school bus routes, and educational options.
Domestic & Wild Animal Regulations and Needs
Domestic pets, which run loose in the mountains, may have painful encounters with wild animals. County regulations prohibit free roaming dogs and dogs must be kept in control at all times.
Keeping large animals, e.g., horses, llamas, and cows, requires food, water and shelter. Pastureland is fragile and if not properly managed will lead to a loss of grasses, potential water contamination and erosion problems. In-house-use well permits prohibit the use of well water for irrigation, thereby limiting vegetation growth on ground used for pasture, and may limit or prohibit watering of animals. Winters are colder so weather-tight animal shelters are recommended. Abundant snowfall may curtail winter horseback riding.
The number and type of domestic animals allowed varies by zone district and is another reason why it is important to check the zoning of the property to be purchased, and that of the surrounding area.
Constraints That Exist Where Wildlife is Present
Coexistence with wildlife is an enjoyable part of living in the mountainous environment of Colorado. The key to coexistence is to respect the wildness of wildlife. As more houses are built in the mountainous areas and in the foothills, human and domestic animal encounters with wildlife will increase. Elk, deer, mountain lion, bear, fox, turkey, beaver, porcupine, coyote, birds, and other animals are found in this environment.
The following Colorado Division of Wildlife guidelines are provided to assist the mountain dweller to better coexist with wildlife:
- Be aware that mountain lions and bear are most active from dusk to dawn.
- Keep your pet under control at all times. Roaming pets are easy prey for larger predators and more susceptible to injury and disease. Bring pets in at night or keep them in a kennel with a secure top. Feeding pets outside can attract mountain lions and bears. Store all garbage securely.
- Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors.
- Planting non-native shrubs and plants that deer and elk often prefer to eat encourages wildlife to come onto your property. This can be a problem because predators follow prey. Note: Elk prefer tulips but they do not like daffodils.
- Do not feed wildlife other than songbirds.
- Place livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night.
Types of Deeds
The grantor (seller) conveys whatever interest he has in the property but doesn't make any warranty as to the quality of his title or interest.
This guarantees that the seller has title. It warrants that the property is free of "encumbrances," such as a mortgage, except as stated in the deed. And it warrants quiet and peaceful possession of the property to the buyer.
Special Warranty Deed
The seller guarantees that title is good against claims of the seller and those claiming through him but not against claims of others.
Community Government Related Links
Colorado County Governments
Colorado Department of Transportation Traveler's Information
Colorado Judicial District 11
Colorado State Forest Service
Colorado State Government Offices
Colorado State Government Agency Index
Colorado Water Conservation District
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