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Old 04-13-2016, 02:12 PM
 
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Dear all,

We recently visited Pagosa Springs, Mancos, and Durango and also looked at some properties there. The area seems to be fantastic for what we would like to do! Small towns with a strong, slightly odd communities in a fantastic location.

We, a young couple currently living in Chicago, are considering the move to southwestern Colorado. I have lived in many countries all over the world, in places large and small and am now ready to leave the big city again to go back to a life with more outdoor and recreation opportunities. Love hiking, running, skiing, anything outdoors.

Any advice with regards to what a good place to settle on would be? Important for us is an openminded community for things like sustainable architecture and sustainable farming and tourism. I am a documentary linguist and would also love the option of getting in touch with local Native American tribes.

Does anyone know what the conditions are for successful airbnb rentals? In particular, is the market in Pagosa Springs really saturated? What other types of businesses are in the town besides tourism? We looked into the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership and are loving it! We are not, though entirely sure about where the project is currently headed. There are many plans, but also a lot of fundraising still going on. Does anyone know what the status is?

Does anyone know about farming in Mancos? It seems to be a very dry area and with the water restrictions in Colorado the way they are, this is a serious concern. Speaking of water restrictions. Does anyone know if it is possible and allowed to build a self-sustaining dwelling such as an earthship?

and related to that, do you know anything about local restrictions and regulations regarding experimental architecture - think said Earthship, tree house etc.?

What are the demographics of the area? Families? Retirees? Telecommuters?

How reliable are internet providers and what is it provided through? Cable? Mobile?

Thanks so much!
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Old 04-13-2016, 09:25 PM
 
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
4,253 posts, read 3,949,899 times
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I am more familiar with Mancos and Durango than I am Pagosa Springs. I do know that Pagosa is a tourist town with a capital "T" and the local zoning board may not be as receptive to the non-traditional structures you mention. Durango is probably your best bet if you can afford it. It's a college town (home of Ft Lewis College), very liberal and very out-doorsy. If any town is going to be open to you building an earthship or tree house, it would be Durango. Also, Fort Lewis started out as a school for Native Americans way back when it was first founded. Since then it has opened its doors to students of any ethnicity and is mostly anglo, but Native Americans still get free tuition there. Many Native Americans from one of the two Ute tribes in the area, as well as members of the Navajo Nation attend Fort Lewis. As you might expect, the population of Durango is mostly college students, some professionals, some trust funders and a fair number of well-off retirees. Durango has become a very desirable place to live and the cost of living reflects that.

Mancos is a small, mostly bedroom community 40 miles or so west of Durango. Many folks commute from Mancos to Durango, because it's too expensive to live in Durango. Mancos is a bit of an artsy town with a highly active community - they started an anti-fracking movement there and they just put in a very nice new library - one you wouldn't expect to see in such a small town.

While there are farmer's markets and an active "buy local" movement in all these towns, I would not come to the Four Corners region in order to make a great living as a small farmer. Pagosa probably gets slightly more rainfall than Durango or Mancos, but that ain't saying much. This area is arid to begin with, and we have been dealing with drought conditions for quite a while now. The cost of water shares is out of sight and that's if you can find any to buy. I happen to live in a small house located on an alfalfa ranch south of Cortez. The house I now live in and the land that surrounds it was bought solely for the water shares that came with the property. The ranching family I rent from has been generous enough to give me one water share of my very own that I can use to grow a veggie garden every year. Without that water share, there's no way I could afford to grow such an extensive garden as I do now. If you do decide to buy property in the area make very sure that adequate water rights come with it. Best of luck!
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Old 04-14-2016, 06:25 AM
 
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The biggest hurdle to moving to that part of the state is finding a job. Can one of you work for the College in Durango? Otherwise it's tourism (generally low paying) or farming (generally very very tough to make it there).
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:14 AM
 
Location: Black Forest, CO
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Have you checked out Taos, New Mexico? Lots of earthship homes there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vpJ3c_Sk-Y
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Old 04-14-2016, 09:42 AM
 
Location: Where the mountains touch the sky
575 posts, read 668,946 times
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Pagosa Springs although beautiful is not really conducive to gardening let alone a small farm. The growing season is short and water is not plentiful. Most housing developments are under HOA control so building an earthship would be difficult. Many exisiting properties are second homes and the short term rental market (AirBnb etc) is very saturated.

You might want to look at the Western Slope, particularly the North Fork Valley (towns of Paonia, Hotchkiss, Crawford). The North Fork Valley of Colorado, Hotchkiss, Paonia, Crawford It has the about best climate in Colorado for gardening and small hobby farms. There are already several organic farms, orchards, craft distilleries, breweries and vineyards in the valley. The elevation is lower than Pagosa so you get a decent growing season. Outdoor recreation of every kind abounds and it is in my opinion one of the more scenic valleys in Colorado.

Paonia and Hotchkiss are cute towns which have a decent artist communities, with an eclectic vibe. Delta County is also one of a few counties in Colorado which is open to alternative building and one of the few counties in Colorado with no adopted building code. Copied directly from the County website:" Building Permits:
No building permits are required and no certificates of occupancy are issued for the construction and placement of any structures in the unincorporated area of Delta County. Any questions involving snow loads or other construction questions will have to be directed toward a registered professional engineer / contractor.
"

The biggest hurdle in this area (as well as many other small Colorado towns) is lack of jobs. As far as high speed reliable internet in rural Colorado, that is still a hurdle with most areas only offering satellite or sometimes microwave however options are slowly beginning to improve. Currently there is a project in the North Fork Valley to bring in high speed fiber optic internet through the Delta Montrose Electrical Association. It has been approved by the DMEA's board and there is also a state grant in place. The project will begin in Paonia. From my understanding the first phase will be a pilot program, where a small cluster of homes and businesses will have fiber optic. Of course this is still in its early phases and it will be some time before the NF Valley is served but at least it's on the horizon.
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Old 04-14-2016, 11:39 AM
 
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Mancos is dry. We used to own some land there. If you do not own a large piece of land, you are not allowed to have a well. You would have to haul water to store in a cistern.

There were prohibitions in our area against mobile homes. Earthships were not mentioned. You need to do your research on all the places you have in mind, rather than rely on CD comments. Laws sometimes change, and how they do could determine whether a plan is doable or not.

Cortez and Durango are also dry. Pagosa Springs might be less dry, but it is highly desired, i.e., expensive.
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Old 04-14-2016, 04:36 PM
 
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The GGP has a complicated, controversial history. They won a state grant last year. They had a local fundraising drive this spring. There is no announcement about success of that a month after it was supposed to end. Maybe they are close, maybe not. The Pagosa Daily Post had a series on it. This is the last installment I know about EDITORIAL: Taking the Heat, Part Six – Pagosa Daily Post News Events & Video for Pagosa Springs Colorado If much has changed, there should be another article. I wouldn't count on GGP happening soon, at all or least as big as envisioned. There is a greenhouse seller over there. At least some folks are doing it with just the help of the sun and enclosure.

Non-traditional structures probably face hurdles in all three counties. LaPlata might be tougher than Archuleta and Montezuma. Dolores County is another option.

College students make up about 25% of Durango but only about 8% of LaPlata County. The average ages are 37 in LaPlata (at national average), 43 in Montezuma and 48 in Archuleta. 12% of folks in LaPlata are 65 or over (at batinal average) and 18% in other two counties. 20-25% of people are Native American, other minority or Hispanic in each county but the ratios vary some.

Participants in this group Durango Tiny House Meetup (Durango, CO) - Meetup
can probably answer or guide you to officials who can answer your non-traditional housing questions.

The Southern Ute Museum had an extensive oral history archive. It closed but if you move here you might contact the tribe if you want to use the archive, help get it available again or add to it.

Almost any agriculture in the area will rely on irrigation and most will need water rights. There are small farmer markets, producers and dialogue in each county. The markets for direct sales are pretty small and competitive, But growing I guess. The pricing level is a subject where producers and consumers may have some differences in perspective. Some of each are reasonably comfortable with them, some not. When I visit the Durango Farmers Market I see maybe twenty sellers, produce that varies from gorgeous to scrawny / challenged, pretty small supplies, prices that generally seem higher than I want to pay... and more lookers than buyers and more buyers of sweet drinks, hot food and crafts than produce.

Montezuma probably has more total agricultural sales than LaPlata and Archuleta would take last. 80-95% of it is livestock (mostly cattle), grains and hay. Fruits & veggies generate a couple million dollars at most across maybe several hundred in that business / hobby. Marijuana farms are reportedly rising in number and size.

Tourism is a leading industry in LaPlata and Archuleta and at least moderate sized in Montezuma but all the counties will have schools, heath care, goverment, retail, services (financial, real estate & construction, etc.) like pretty much every place to one scale or another so the employment base is more diverse than just tourism. It is true though that it can tough to crack into any of these fields where openings are few and seekers of the good jobs are greater. Connections matter like anywhere, with native and older locals perhaps more interested in working with family and friends over the newest arrivals. And yet many of the more skilled, energetic and personable new arrivals hook in somehow. On the other hand, perhaps a third or more struggle to be employment satisfied and many of these eventually leave.

Last edited by NW Crow; 04-14-2016 at 05:43 PM..
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Old 04-20-2016, 08:49 AM
 
19 posts, read 22,743 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Rambler View Post
I am more familiar with Mancos and Durango than I am Pagosa Springs. I do know that Pagosa is a tourist town with a capital "T" and the local zoning board may not be as receptive to the non-traditional structures you mention. Durango is probably your best bet if you can afford it. It's a college town (home of Ft Lewis College), very liberal and very out-doorsy. If any town is going to be open to you building an earthship or tree house, it would be Durango. Also, Fort Lewis started out as a school for Native Americans way back when it was first founded. Since then it has opened its doors to students of any ethnicity and is mostly anglo, but Native Americans still get free tuition there. Many Native Americans from one of the two Ute tribes in the area, as well as members of the Navajo Nation attend Fort Lewis. As you might expect, the population of Durango is mostly college students, some professionals, some trust funders and a fair number of well-off retirees. Durango has become a very desirable place to live and the cost of living reflects that.
Thanks so much for these insights! I am very happy to hear this about Fort Lewis - it's exactly the right kind of academic environment I would wish for!
The higher cost of living in Durango is what made us look into Pagosa Springs as well. I figure, as long as we were not planning on commuting to work every day, a regular drive (45 min?) to Durango is definitely doable?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Rambler View Post
Mancos is a small, mostly bedroom community 40 miles or so west of Durango. Many folks commute from Mancos to Durango, because it's too expensive to live in Durango. Mancos is a bit of an artsy town with a highly active community - they started an anti-fracking movement there and they just put in a very nice new library - one you wouldn't expect to see in such a small town.
That's exactly the impression we got of Mancos when visiting two weeks ago - all the way down to our awesome real estate agent showing us around. Great to see it confirmed here. Since we are planning on taking advantage of the tourism the area attracts, it seems as if the town is not the best bet though at the end of the day. Many people drive through on the way to Mesa Verde, but I get the impression that few linger - or would, even if there were accommodation options.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Rambler View Post
While there are farmer's markets and an active "buy local" movement in all these towns, I would not come to the Four Corners region in order to make a great living as a small farmer. Pagosa probably gets slightly more rainfall than Durango or Mancos, but that ain't saying much. This area is arid to begin with, and we have been dealing with drought conditions for quite a while now. The cost of water shares is out of sight and that's if you can find any to buy. I happen to live in a small house located on an alfalfa ranch south of Cortez. The house I now live in and the land that surrounds it was bought solely for the water shares that came with the property. The ranching family I rent from has been generous enough to give me one water share of my very own that I can use to grow a veggie garden every year. Without that water share, there's no way I could afford to grow such an extensive garden as I do now. If you do decide to buy property in the area make very sure that adequate water rights come with it. Best of luck!
The water issue is truly one of our greatest concerns. Thanks for bringing it up! We would not want to do any sizable farming, but using permaculture principles, it seems possible to use the existing water and collect rainwater for small-scale sustainable options. The biodomes from Pagosa Springs also look fantastic to us.
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Old 04-20-2016, 08:53 AM
 
19 posts, read 22,743 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brown_dog_us View Post
The biggest hurdle to moving to that part of the state is finding a job. Can one of you work for the College in Durango? Otherwise it's tourism (generally low paying) or farming (generally very very tough to make it there).
Yes, thanks for pointing that out! I am planning on looking into working at the Fort Lewis - I am a linguist currently at the the University of Chicago and would love to work at a smaller college in more relaxed setting. We are also both able to telecommute, if necessary.
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Old 04-20-2016, 08:55 AM
 
19 posts, read 22,743 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beezle1 View Post
Have you checked out Taos, New Mexico? Lots of earthship homes there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vpJ3c_Sk-Y
Yes, thanks! We have indeed! That's where the Earthship idea comes from! We considered Taos as well as a place to relocate to, but unfortunately, it is a very expensive town. But the relative proximity of the 4-corners region to Taos is definitely a selling point for us as well.
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