Byers Peak Ranch seeks annexation
April 20, 2011
FRASER – The Fraser planning commission began its process for annexation of the 295-acre Byers Peak Ranch into town during a public hearing on March 23.
The ranch, which is immediately adjacent to the south side of historic downtown Fraser, includes Colorado Adventure Park and is bisected by the Fraser Valley Parkway. It is currently located within the unincorporated county and zoned for residential use.
“This property can either be developed in the county or in the town,” said project manager Jack Bestall who represented the project at the planning commission meeting.
The owner’s preference, however, is to be annexed into the town since it is surrounded by Fraser on three sides and is within Fraser’s three-mile growth area, Bestall said at the hearing. In addition, the county’s master plan encourages developers to seek annexation into the closest municipality.
The owners are committed to developing water and sewer whether the property stays in the county or incorporates into town, Bestall said. If the ranch remains within the unincorporated county, the owners could seek to develop a water and sewer system apart from the town that might support 1,500-2,600 residential units, Bestall said.
Under the proposed “Planned Development District Plan,” which would be part of the annexation agreement with Fraser, the developers would hook into the town’s existing water and sewer infrastructure, limiting the residential units to 1,436 plus some 350 lodging units. The plan also calls for about 32 acres of light industrial, including a 6-acre town maintenance facility, along the railroad tracks. Another 100 acres of mixed-use and open space near the tubing hill could include an RV park and developed campground, lakes with water skiing, horseback trail riding, walking trails, a festival venue, a dog park, a senior living/aging in place community, a dog park and an educational facility.
Bestall’s figures for density in the county are premature, Grand County Planner Kris Manguso said in a follow-up conversation. Without any further approval from the county, state law allows the ranch to be subdivided into eight, 35-acre lots with a single residential family home served by well and septic. Multi-family residential units and sewer treatment plants come with required setbacks and open space, she added, all calculations she has not sat down and figured for that property.
More than 35 people attended the public hearing and another dozen-or-so letters were read into the minutes March 23. Most of the comments expressed concern about the development, from worries about the environmental and visual impact to the effect of such a large development on the Fraser community.
After many comments were made in opposition to the development, Fraser Trustee Scotty Brent, speaking as a member of the public, spoke up:
“People seem to be under the perception that if we don’t annex this property into the town that its going to stop that development. That’s dead wrong. The county’s already zoned that for residential and for quite a few more units than what they’re proposing for the annexation here in town. If we do annex this into town, we have an opportunity to control and be in charge – to the extent that we can – what happens there. That puts us in the driver’s seat. I think that’s important.”
Mill Avenue resident Adam Gould said planners have “a great opportunity to connect our town to this development,” but instead are “cutting us off from it … creating a development centered on itself. … At least let us create a connection … give us a path to connect us to the town.”
Bestall said the property owners heard this type of constructive feedback and are ready to return to the next public hearing with several revisions and additions to the plan, including lower height restrictions everywhere except along the railroad and a trail system to connect the development to town.
Carol Sidofsky was among those concerned about the environmental impacts of the development, suggesting that the property has several unusual wetlands features that would be endangered by the development.
Bestall said every step of the planning and construction will be closely regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the federal permitting process for the development of wetlands.
Several people at the public hearing asked why the developers would be considering any type of new residential or commercial development at a time when so many houses and retail spaces are sitting empty.
“In down economic times, this is the time to plan for the future,” Bestall said. “You can’t build as much, but you can at least spend money and time getting plans in place for the future.”
Despite the down economy, Bestall added, Byers Peak Ranch is a prime candidate for development in the near future since much of the proposed housing is more affordable than that in other existing planned developments, such as the higher-end Grand Park, which was developed by some of the same partners.
Bestall noted that this property has several advantages that make it ideal for development in the near future.
“Of all the properties that have been annexed, this is most immediately adjacent to town proper. People living there will be able to access existing parts of town on foot, including the libraries, schools and existing services.”
The March 23 hearing was the first step in an extended process. A second public hearing will be held Wednesday, April 27, before the planning commission begins to discuss a recommendation for the town board.
The Fraser Board of Trustees will also hold several public hearings before any decisions are made regarding the annexation. Through the annexation process, the developer’s plans may change and evolve.
In the end, Scotty Brent said, the town is better prepared now to handle the annexation process than it has been in the past: “We had some struggles. We’ve learned a lot … The town as a whole has grown up a lot and we know some of the pitfalls that can happen by not nailing down the details. We are better prepared to deal with this annexation than we were the last time around.”
– Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610