Cows crowded out

  Bob Niccoli, a life-long rancher in Crested Butte, Colo., says the decision to sell his ranch and leave town just got easier. Niccoli protested a proposed development near his ranch in early January. He asked Gunnison County planners to require developer Dan Gallagher to build his 12 houses 100 feet back from a riverside cliff overlooking Niccoli's property. The planners conceded to a set-back of only 10 feet. Niccoli, who worries that noise, dogs, kids, stereos, parties and cars will disturb his cows, says he will appeal the set-back decision to county commissioners. "I thought the planning commission's goals were to help maintain ranching and keep the valley diversified," he says. Niccoli says many people want agricultural land to remain near Crested Butte, a booming ski area resort, but land prices of $6,000-$7,000 per acre mean that "the one that has the most money speaks the loudest." Niccoli says he plans to eventually sell his ranch and move to a less developed area in Montana.