Planning commission considers rural growth area at Byers Peak Ranch
With development increasing in Grand County, questions raised by projects like Byers Peak Ranch are growing more relevant as locals and officials map out the county’s priorities.
The proposed project outside Fraser has sparked issues about open space, development and environmental preservation in Grand. The county planning commission highlighted some of those questions at last week’s meeting, attended by more than 50 online participants.
In attendance were people interested in the Byers Peak Ranch project, where there is a proposal to add 138 acres to the county’s Rural Growth Area Three.
As presented, the plan for the ranch would be divided into two sections: the ranch headquarters — that could be added to the rural growth area — and the Byers Peak Ranch Estates.
Jeff Vogel, representing property owner Norm Carpenter, explained the plans for the area. The ranch headquarters would be a cluster of 10 homesites, and the Byers Peak Ranch Estates would be an additional 10 35-acre homesites.
About 47% of the property boundary touches planned growth areas, with Rural Growth Area Three to the northwest and the Fraser Urban Growth Area to the northeast. The southwest boundary abuts US Forest Service lands while the southeast boarder is not slated in any growth areas, just like the property in question.
Because the property is not in a growth area, it only has two options for subdividing: the subdivision exemption process, which partitions two lots per 35 acres and would require a modification of the current proposal, or amending the county’s rural growth area. The second option would increase density and accommodate the 10 homes on roughly 5 acre lots for the headquarters site.
The headquarters includes the historical “Western White House,” where President Dwight D. Eisenhower spent a number of summers. Vogel said the owner is considering turning that portion into an educational facility.
Saint Louis Creek also runs through the proposed ranch headquarters, and members of the public raised concerns with this proposal about the conservation of wetlands, riparian areas and view corridors.
Vogel emphasized the desire of the property owner to preserve contiguous open space areas by establishing “envelopes” of buildings.
“The intent is not to come in and compromise the integrity of the riparian corridor, but rather plan around it and maintain that as open,” Vogel said.
One major issue raised by homeowners related to a potential shooting range on the property. Vogel emphasized that there would be no shooting range on or within 100 feet of the ranch headquarters, but he did not say whether there were any such plans near the estates.
Planning Commission Chair Marcus Davis said the meeting’s discussion was not about the shooting range. He explained that if the owner wants to add a shooting range, it is already permitted as a use by right based on the current zoning of the property.
No decisions were made at the Sept. 23 meeting, as the intention was to give staff direction on further work about expanding the rural growth area, but the conversation highlighted a reoccurring discussion in Grand County.
With record real estate sales this summer and a increasing dearth of supply for the booming housing industry, development is growing in Grand. Director of Community Development, Robert Davis, said that the department has never been as busy as it has this summer.
The county is expected to grow 47% in the next 25 years, Davis explained, and it’s up to conversations like this one to determine what that growth will look like.
“We know this growth isn’t going to slow down anytime soon, but then the question is do we need more land to accommodate the growth? If we do, then where?” Davis said.
The planning commission asked staff to continue research into this possible expansion of Rural Growth Area Three, including discussions with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the history of the county’s master plan related to this strip of land.
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