Grand County on receiving end of Elk Valley developer’s injunction
March 25, 2008
Fred Hesse, developer of a housing rental project 11 years in the making, is fed up with Grand County.So much so, he filed an injunction against the county recently for delaying his ability to lease units.Hesse started his Elk Valley Olympic Village, located in the vicinity of Red Dirt Hill, with attainable housing in mind. The five-building complex is ready for tenants, he said, but a struggle to get county approval for Elk Valley has postponed his vision.For the past two years, he has been going back and forth with the county planning and zoning department with the aim of obtaining a certificate of occupancy for his factory-built condominium units on property zoned mobile home. But the county says Hesse has too many units, saying he must have 19 or fewer in accordance with the villages current water system. Hesse built 20 units, claiming one is an office. But the county isnt buying it. The planning and zoning department has instructed Hesse to lose a wall separating two of the units, which Hesse feels is unnecessary.The county maintains that when the development reaches 20 units, a whole new set of regulations kicks in.Hesse says he has not been able to find the rule that limits the capacity on a mobile-home zoned property to 19 units.And, they cant make me change my zoning, he said.Computers and a fax machine furnish his 20th unit. The developer claims it in no way serves as a place to live anyway.Therefore, currently the issue now seems to be the countys attempt or effort to control Elk Valleys water use related issues, stated Hesses lawyer Dennis Polk of Holley, Albertson & Polk, P.C., in a December 2007 letter to County Attorney Jack Dicola. Elk Valleys water system gained its stamp and approval last fall by the state Water Quality and Control Division, according to District Engineer Andy Poirot, P.E. He has no issues with the state water department. Poirot said.But the county has taken issue with Elk Valleys augmentation pond, called Ecker Pond, which is meant to guarantee Ten Mile Creek flows a tributary to the Fraser River. The pond is too small, according to correspondence from the county planning and zoning department dated Dec. 10, 2007.Quoting Grand County Water Commissioner Neil Misbach, the county Planning Director Kris Manguso relayed to Hesse in a letter that Elk Valley is required 7-acre feet of augmentation water available on-site for replacement water before they can operate their wells. The Elk Valley pond lacks a little more than 3 acre feet. Hesse holds a permit to fix the ponds, he said, and thought when the pond was expanded, he had 7 to 10 acre feet. He plans to build a dog leg on the pond, but first must access a call on that water. Nevertheless, he feels the countys issue with the pond is overzealous.The water in the pond is not used for drinking by my tenants. I dont need 7 acre feet right now, I probably wont need 7 acre feet until next October. Inadvertently, well permits were issued by the state along the way, according to documents, before the size of the augmentation pond had been checked, which is a state requirement.Thus, Hesse claims the size of the pond is out of the countys realm of responsibility at this point, and would prefer the county turn its attention to issuing him a certificate of occupancy. But he hasnt been able to get so much as a final inspection until aforementioned matters get resolved. The county recently red-tagged his units to ensure Hesse doesnt rent them out without a certificate of occupancy.All Hesse had to do was remedy the pond to be in compliance with his augmentation plan, according to County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, and nix the 20th unit.As far as the pond, Weve been waiting for that for quite some time so that he is compliant. Our building permits require proof of water, Curran said.I could have rented (units) two years ago. So what are they trying to do to me? Bankrupt me? Hesse asked.The delay is costing him $1,500 a day for interest on loans, the developer said. Thats why we sued them. If they want to go to court, well go to court. Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.