Contentious Grand Lake Lodge development gets approval from planning commission
January 23, 2019
A contentious plan to expand the historic Grand Lake Lodge took a step forward last week after the Grand Lake Planning Commission approved a pair of planning documents that had been in limbo over the last several months.
On Jan. 16, the planning commission approved an amended planned development document and a site plan proposal for the Grand Lake Lodge. The two documents are part of a larger development project being planned by the lodge's owners, Red Tail Acquisitions, a private real estate investment firm based out of Irvine, California.
The documents approval means the issue will now move forward for further review and potential approval of the Grand Lake Board of Trustees.
Grand Lake Town Manager Jim White said he expects the board to review the issue at its upcoming Feb. 11 meeting.
The new Grand Lake Lodge development looks to construct 86 additional lodging units, or cabins, on the property over a four-phase construction project.
The development has been somewhat contentious in the Grand Lake community as numerous local residents have raised their voices in concern or opposition. Statements made by community members have prompted officials from Red Tail Acquisitions to redevelop and resubmit the project's planning documents on more than one occasion.
The entire project was thrown into uncertainty last fall after a pair of legal arguments were raised during a Sept. 5 planning commission meeting, during which a lawyer representing a local homeowner presented a memorandum of agreement originally signed between the U.S. National Park Service and a previous owner of the lodge. It was contended that the memorandum restricted the ability of developers to construct any hotel or lodge on the property.
A representative from the Grand Lake Historical Society also highlighted a series of covenants they claimed were binding on the property, requiring that all construction on the land meet 40 specific design criteria.
"The matter was referred to the National Park Service, who consulted with their attorney (the U.S. Solicitor's office)," Grand Lake Town Attorney Scott Krob wrote in a memo to town officials in late November. "The Solicitor provided an answer to the Park Service in which he indicated that the limitation applies only 'to lands lying within the Park boundaries…' and that the property that is the subject of the pending application is not within the Park boundaries and therefore not subject."
Krob noted that he informed the attorney for the homeowners who raised the memorandum issue, but indicated that he had received no response from the attorney at the time he drafted his memo, roughly a six weeks later.
Mark Painter, a Boulder-based attorney representing Red Tail Acquisitions, addressed the issue of the covenants in comments he made to the planning commission in a Dec. 5 meeting.
At that meeting, Painter outlined a series of legal documents and arguments he asserted proved the covenants highlighted by the Historical Society do not apply to the future lodge development.
According to planning commission meeting minutes from Dec. 5, Krob agreed with Painter's legal analysis that the covenants did not apply.
The two planning documents were approved with a series of stipulations that were added by the planning commission.
According to Grand Lake Town Planner Nate Shull, those stipulations were related to amendments and additions to the language of the proposed design guidelines for the lodge, requirements for obtaining various special use permits connected to the National Park Service, fire mitigation and road intersection improvements, and finally requirements for obtaining easements for utilities and public access to the property.