Elk Creek easement talks ongoing

Cattle graze on the Cozens Meadow in Grand Park on Wednesday. Grand Park developer Clark Lipscomb and town officials are in a dispute over a conservation easement.
McKenna Harford/

With Fraser having declared a conservation easement on Elk Creek Meadow null and void, the town is preventing more development in the Grand Park neighborhood until a remedy for the easement requirements is agreed to.

However, the developer of Grand Park maintains the easement meets the requirements of the neighborhood’s annexation agreement with the town, and he says he is willing to take it to court.

Last year, a conservation easement was recorded for around 17.7 acres in the Elk Creek Meadow in Grand Park, which stated the easement met all of the terms from the annexation agreement. But Fraser’s attorney later said he didn’t approve the easement, and the town board voted to declare the document null and void in October.

On July 21, the board gave the attorney and the manager the ability to withhold building permits, certificates of occupancy and other entitlements from the developer until an easement is recorded.

Manager Ed Cannon said over the phone Tuesday that the town was negotiating with Grand Park developer Clark Lipscomb and hopeful a resolution could happen within the next couple of weeks.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s come to the point where we’re seeking remedies, but we felt it was our only choice,” Cannon said. “I think we’re making some good progress and Mr. Lipscomb is eager to work with the town to get this resolved.”

Lipscomb also wants a quick resolution, but he remains adamant the Elk Creek easement is still valid and covers all of the development’s conservation easement requirements. In a letter to the town, Lipscomb asked for a 45-day suspension of the town’s decision to withhold entitlements so they can come up with a mutual solution.

He said the suspension of the entitlements risks impacting about $67 million in construction and sales at Grand Park, with over $100 million in potential damages.

“Without ever coming and sitting down with me … they just go hire a lawyer,” Lipscomb said of the town. “This is a waste of tax payers money for the town to hire lawyers rather than sit down and discuss changes they would like to make to the agreement, and if it can’t get resolved through discussions, then it will likely be decided by a judge unfortunately.”

The letter also outlines nine terms for an agreement between Grand Park and the town to solve the easement issue.

The agreement would reinstate the March 2020 easement, extend vesting rights for Grand Park, move forward the Willows Apartment project, allow for a nine-hole golf course and resume the economic incentive agreement for the Market St. buildings.

In exchange, Grand Park would give the town an identified parcel of land behind the Cozen’s Meadow Lots for a water augmentation pond, help fund a future expansion of the Grand Park Recreation Center, including dedicating land for new amenities, and allow an emergency water cross connection to Grand Park’s water system.

Lipscomb said he hadn’t heard back about the proposal, but that he believes the board is singling him out and acting vindictively for personal reasons.

Lipscomb also maintains that a conservation easement isn’t needed for the entire 297-acre meadow because 162 acres are already zoned as open space, which prevents him from developing on the land.

“This to me is completely irrelevant because it’s already zoned open space and part of it’s wetlands and part of it’s ponds,” he said.

Many Fraser residents have spoken in support of an easement for the entirety of the meadow, citing Lipscomb’s use of it for cattle grazing and closing public access to his property as signs the land needs more protection.

On Wednesday, Fraser board spent several hours in executive session regarding the conservation easement, but made no public statements about the discussion.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Lipscomb believes the Elk Creek conservation easement meets the development’s conservation easement requirements outlined in the annexation agreement. The acreage of the meadow has also been corrected, it is 297 acres.

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