Massive Roam development gets approval | SkyHiNews.com

Massive Roam development gets approval

The Winter Park Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the annexation agreement with Fraser River Development Co., along with final development plans and consolidated service plans for the proposed Roam development.

The decision paves the way for Roam, a massive development project proposed by the Fraser River Development Company, which promises more than 1,000 new residential units, 400 hotel units and over 70,000 square feet of commercial space.

The annexation agreement brings more than 170 acres of unincorporated land into the town of Winter Park in two segments. The largest portion of the land, about 166 acres, is located south of downtown Winter Park on the east side of Highway 40, bordering the Arapaho National Forest to the south and east. The bigger section, known as Roam East, is bisected by the Fraser River. There is also a six-acre plot on the west side of Highway 40 that's bound by the road and the railroad.

The plans are ambitious, with Roam West being reserved primarily for commercial, hospitality and recreation, while Roam East will feature considerable mixed-use areas, but will primarily be residential. The plans also call for two parks to be dedicated to the town: a 5.5-acre extension of Porphyry Park and a 1.5-acre neighborhood park centrally located within Roam East.

Residents packed the town council chambers to share their support and concerns for the project during the public comment period. While almost all were in favor of the development, some felt the town was moving too quickly in making a decision, or that the final development plan needed revisions.

A major topic of conversation throughout the process has been the conservation of the Fraser River, as well as the considerable wetlands and wildlife populations in the area.

"I'm here to request that the town council takes more time to consider the affect this development will have on the health of the river," said Priscilla Kirouac, a Winter Park resident. "I do not believe a 24-acre corridor is sufficient considering the property boarders over a mile of the river, and is a major thoroughfare and habitat for moose, deer, birds, beavers, fish and more."

Kirouac's comments were reflected by several others, including former wildlife biologist Wendy McGuire and Colorado Parks & Wildlife District Wildlife Manager Jeromy Huntington. McGuire noted that given the abundance of wetlands in the area avoidance may not be a realistic strategy, and that mitigation isn't ideal. Both McGuire and Huntington agreed that the development could have adverse affects on wildlife migration, and that trails and buildings too close to the river would create safety issues for the public and wildlife.

Jeff Vogel of Vogel & Associates was one of several to speak on behalf of the Fraser River Development Company, reassuring residents that there hasn't been any proposed wetland mitigation at this time, and that structures would be well off the river. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must approve wetland mitigation; meaning developers can't simply build wherever they want.

Others were upset with which quality of open space land that would be dedicated for a town park.

"I continue to be disappointed in the amount of open space dedicated to the town," said Linda Behlen, a resident. "In his memo Mr. Shockey states that the five percent open space requirement is met by an easement and 5.5-acres of land that contains a geological hazard that's undevelopable."

Behlen is referring to a March 6 memo sent our by Community Development Director James Shockey that refers to the proposed open space dedication of the Porphyry Park extension as a "geological hazard area." Vogel argued that while the area can't withstand development, it brings aesthetic value to the town.

A number of other concerns came to light during the public discussion, including a perceived lack of transparency by town officials, disappointment that the section of the river is closed to public fishing, traffic issues, septic systems, stream management, mill levies, and more. There were also several members of the public who felt that the negotiation process had gone on long enough, and who felt the town was getting a great deal.

"I've been listening to the comments over the last couple meetings, and I think the mayor made a good point earlier that this property has always been private," said Ken Boenish, a business owner in Winter Park. "There's no public access now, and I think a lot of the comments I'm hearing seem to be coming from the standpoint that people are losing something, instead of focusing on the abundance that the town and the people that live here are getting out of this. This is going to be a pivotal development both for the town and for the business owners in the town, and I'm in favor of it."

Boosters of the development point to Bob Fanch's involvement in the project as a comfort given his level of success in the county with projects like Devil's Thumb Ranch.

There could also be a significant financial incentive for the town. The agreement includes a one percent real estate transfer assessment (RETA), which could generate more than $800,000 a year for the town at build-out, according to Vogel. There is also a .5 percent RETA reserved for workforce housing projects that is anticipated to generate several hundred thousand dollars a year.

The town will also receive three acres of land in segments as the development progresses. Fraser River Development Company will give the town one acre upon the issuance of the building permit for the 269th unit in the project, or five years, whichever is sooner. The town will receive the second acre after the 376th unit, and the third after the 591st. The third acre is also tied to the 20-year vesting rights given to Fraser River Development in the final development plans.

Ultimately, after some minor legal bickering between sides, the council voted to move forward with the project, promising manageable growth for the town.

"I know how difficult these agreements are," said Keith Neil, vice president of Rendezvous' parent company, Koelbel and Company. "They're complicated, and they take a long time to vet. There's give and take with all agreements, and you have to find the balance. I've been through a lot of these in my career, and after a couple years, there comes a time when you have to make a decision and move forward."

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