Mindful Land Use Solutions

Heart-based planning for an appropriate technology era.

Our intention with the Saguache County Mindful Land Use Project is to support the home owner / builder and keep housing affordable in Saguache County.

4/8/22 UPDATE on Land Use Codes
The Mindful Land Use Solutions group hosted a presentation at the 3/31 Planning Commissioner’s meeting.  This turned out to be a great opportunity for all of us to explore the complexity of issues surrounding housing, construction and rising costs.  We are all concerned about the healthy growth of our County and how land use and code enforcement can be supportive of residents and new solutions created to mitigate current problems.  We are very encouraged by the Planning Commission’s decisions on the following codes:

XIII.4.14. There shall be a minimum square footage of 900 square feet for a residence. (The Planning Commission voted 5-3 to adopt the State’s minimum square footage requirements which are 150 sq. ft. This will be presented to the County Commissioners on Tuesday, April 19.  They make the final vote for codes.)
XIII.4.15. Accessory structures are not permitted on vacant parcels until a permitted residence is completed. (i.e. greenhouses, hoop houses, garages, storage sheds, shipping containers, outbuildings of any type, studio, carports, etc.).  Agricultural structures being used strictly for agricultural use may be exempt. (The Planning Commissioners voted unanimously to change this code to allow accessory structures with a permit, once construction and sewage disposal permits are in place.)
Next Steps: The Commissioner’s may vote on the above codes at the upcoming meeting.

XIII.4.10. A sewage disposal permit must be acquired and installed in accordance with approval by the appropriate government agency and finalized with the Saguache County Land Use Office before applying for a construction permit. Composting toilets, incinerating toilets, and vault systems are not permittable or allowed in Saguache County.  (Since our last meeting, it has come to our attention that an Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) must be in place to install composting toilets.  Please see attached CDPHE document for all details on composting toilets. This is a longer term project to look at viable options that can be NSF certified.)

Upcoming Meetings

Solution Session

No upcoming solution sessions

Saguache County Commissioner Meeting

Tuesday, April 19 at 1PM

Saguache County Courthouse
501 4th St Saguache, CO 81149

Please visit the County’s website for agendas & Zoom links: https://saguachecounty.colorado.gov/board-of-county-commissioners-agendas

The Commissioners may vote on the proposed code changes at this meeting.

Saguache County Planning Commission

Work Session

Regular Meeting

Stay In Touch

Our Main Issues

XIII.4.10.1. Composting toilets, incinerating toilets, and vault systems are not permittable or allowed in Saguache County .

XIII.4.14. There shall be a minimum square footage of 900 square feet for a residence.

XIII.4.15. Accessory structures are not permitted on vacant parcels until a permitted residence is completed. i.e. greenhouses, hoop houses, garages, storage sheds, shipping containers, outbuildings of any type, studio, carports, etc.

XIII.4.15.1. Agricultural structures being used strictly for agricultural use may be exempt.


1) Continue to let the County Commissioners know how you feel about the proposed Land Use Code changes.

2) Call Amber at 719-655-2321 to get a spot on the agenda during either County or Planning Commissioner meetings.

3) Write a compelling story to the following:

Amber Wilson – Land Use Administrator

Tom McCracken – Commissioner

Lynne Thompson – Commissioner

Tim Lovato – Commissioner

Mailing address:

Saguache County Land Use
PO BOX 326
Saguache CO, 81149

Saguache County Board of Commissioners are seeking members and alternates from: 

  1. Town of Saguache surrounding area – member and alternate 
  2. La Garita/Center area – member and alternate 
  3. Town of Center and surrounding area – alternate 
  4. Cochetopa area – Member and alternate 
  5. Moffat and surrounding area – alternate 
  6. Hooper and surrounding area – alternate 
  7. Villa Grove and surrounding area – alternate 
  8. At Large for All of Saguache County – alternate 
  9. Crestone and surrounding area – alternate 

The representative must be a property owner or property manager and reside in the area they are interested in representing. Regular member terms are for three years and the alternate terms are for one year. 

Saguache County Planning Commission meets on the last Thursday of each month in the Road and Bridge meeting room. The Planning Commission may also have work sessions throughout each month to work on the Saguache County Master Plan and different items. 

If you are interested, please send a brief letter of interest stating qualifications and interest to:
Saguache County Land Use, Attn: Amber Wilson, PO Box 326, Saguache, CO 81149.
Should you have any questions please call Amber Wilson at 719-655-2321. 

Housing Stories

Share your housing or building experience.

We are looking for stories from Saguache County residents who have creatively built small / simple / off-grid / alternative construction / natural material homes, in an effort to conserve water, keep costs manageable, and inspire future home builders.

We are collecting stories and crafting solutions to address the concerns of our Planning Commission and County Commissioners regarding alternative housing and lifestyles. Together we can create building codes which support all economic classes, protect our natural resources, and offer innovative building, energy, heating and sanitation systems.

The Crestone Energy Exchange is collecting written stories about your experiences with housing – good or bad. Please email us and let us know what led you to Saguache County and the problems or solutions you’ve faced; how the Land Use Code has affected you; what kind of house and systems you want to build or have built; etc.

Use subject: Housing Story

Northern Saguache County Library District is starting a podcast series: Saguache County Stories: Exploring the evolution and history of land and people in the Northern San Luis Valley.  The first theme: Finding Home will be stories collected through personal recorded interviews of Saguache County residents.

Join us in sharing your story. Check out our upcoming events – see below.

Have Your Story Recorded

Saguache County Stories will be collected through video recording at our local libraries. Please RSVP by calling the library in Saguache or on T Road depending on which date you’d like to attend. These recordings will be posted on YouTube, this website, possibly Facebook, and will be used to compel the county commissioners and planning commission to take everyone into account. The NSCLD will also publish these in their podcast.

Monday, February 14th 

Hours:  5-7 PM
Baca Grande Library
67487 County Road T, Crestone
RSVP: 719-256-4100

Tuesday, February 15th

Hours:  5-7 PM
Saguache Library
702 Pitkin Avenue, Saguache
RSVP: 719-655-2551

Written Stories

A Story by Suzanne Rouge

It was the Energy Fair in 1993 that first brought me to the San Luis Valley. I was interested in learning more about sustainable living. I helped a friend work on their straw bale round house and it was then, that my dream home began to take shape in my imagination. Almost 30 years later I have returned to make that dream come true.

Beyond the grandeur of the Sacred and astounding views, there is the magnificence of the minute. I experience it just driving around the Baca looking at all the detail that goes into building structures from the earth. There is something admirable, as well as affordable, about building your own abode.

A value for independence and freedom prevails here in the Valley. Part of preserving that pioneering spirit is by bioneering an interconnected local community. One that advocates for the very things called into question with these proposed amendments to Land Use.

We are at the precipice of change in which our local values could serve as a national model.

Down sizing our lives with off grid harmony in nature is the wave of the future.
I live comfortably within 450 sq feet. To double that amount is to drastically increase the initial expense of building at a time when inflation is sky rocketing the price of materials. It also means more space to maintain as I age and it involves more effort and expense to heat. These changes could put my retirement home out of reach.

Affordable housing, for displaced people, is a rapidly increasing reality of climate change. The fall out from lock downs has only just begun. A shortage of housing for migrant workers is already a problem. There is a proposal to create a tiny house hempcrete village near Center to address this basic need.

What is the purpose for increasing the square foot requirement?

Living in a high desert alpine valley requires conservation of resources. Gray water, composting, solar, wind and hydro energy efficiency is what we could be striving for to maintain balance. There are viable composting and incinerator toilets that close a permaculture loop and eliminate problems with expensive septic systems. Why waste water on waste?

Rather than limiting their use, we could be educating people about clean up codes. Perhaps funding from grants would help implement new technologies and assist people in coming up to code. Proactive education is key as more people choose to carve out a life for themselves here. Responsibility through education can be embraced rather than enforced.

I’ve been experiencing the cooperative homesteading vision of a former County Commissioner, Linda Joseph, at EarthArt Village. There is so much untapped potential to illustrate this philosophy of a way of life. These proposed amendments violate those 23 year old intentions.

What happens to people who have lived here many years who would now find themselves out of compliance?

I’m planning to purchase land near Villa Grove in 2022 in order to build an Earth Ship featuring hempcrete. I will need a shed to store materials and provide a workspace out of the elements. I am intending to turn it into an attached garage with a sculpting studio. The proposal to eliminate this option makes no sense to me. The idea of living in a tiny house or RV on site is also necessary in order for me to complete the project in a timely manner.

How many people have done this before me? Are we looking at the glass half empty to see this as a problem? For every delayed project or eye sore there are many beautifully completed homes.

Compassion, as demonstrated by many neighbors, has been a solution for a few people I know in need of assistance in finishing their places.

It seems I’ve been one step behind gentrification my whole life. I have seen areas be consumed by greed and slapstick, over priced housing. I love the character of this Valley. Independent, self sufficient, innovative, solution oriented community is what is needed, not reactive rules and regulations.