Town of Fraser grows by 295 acres
FRASER —With six “ayes” and one “no” vote, the Fraser Board of Trustees approved the Byers Peak Ranch Annexation agreement and related documents during the Wednesday night regular meeting, bringing the six-year negotiation to a close.
The annexation of Byers Peak Ranch will annex a 295-acre parcel south of Mill Avenue and west of the railroad tracks to the Town of Fraser, and will give the developer a 35-year period to build 530 detached and 905 attached residential units, 550 lodging units and RV sites, and 270,000 square-feet of mixed use, commercial, and industrial units — if the developer where to completely build out the development.
“I appreciate that a lot of people worked really hard on this and worked for some important benefits for this community through this annexation, and I am very pleased that we have made it there,” said Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin.
The board chose to include a condition in the motion to approve the annexation that buildings in the development not exceed 45 feet in height, striking down the developer’s requested 55-foot height limit.
Clark Lipscomb, the president of Byers Peak Properties, LLC., and the applicant of the annexation has indicated he will accept the condition. Yet the developer could ask the board to amend the agreement to allow him to exceed the height restriction if he wants to build a building that is taller than the 45-foot height restriction; the board indicated during its deliberation of the topic it would be willing to consider approving a building above 45 feet if it is appropriate.
“The town made a really good deal for the town and I think it will end up being a very successful project for us as well as the Town of Fraser,” Lipscomb said.
The developer stated he does not think he will begin construction of the project until next year, though he has already started working on the initial process of constructing two water augmentation ponds, which will be built by the developer and dedicated to the town.
The developer plans to build homes on the Byers Peak Ranch property that are affordable and will allow residents and newcomers an option to live and work in the Fraser Valley instead of having to live outside of the Valley because of high home prices.
The Town of Fraser has spent hundreds of hours working through the annexation agreement, having created a subcommittee dedicated to the project consisting of Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith and Trustee Steve Sumrall and held numerous community meetings to help the residents of Fraser understand the agreement and voice questions or concerns about the project.
Smith opened the board’s deliberations with a statement outlining the history and the agreement and providing the different possibilities if the agreement were to be approved or not.
“This annexation is not whether the property should or should not be developed. The applicant owns this property and it will be developed, if not in the town of Fraser, than in the County. This annexation is a decision based on what is best for our community now and in the future,” Smith said. “In order to have a sustainable community we need to attract younger families and new businesses that create new jobs. By annexing Byers Peak Ranch into the town of Fraser we can maintain control of the sales tax generated in the development as opposed to competing against Byers Peak Ranch as we do with the town of Winter Park. Imagine a Fraser Valley that instead of competing against our community members unites and focuses on our real competition, Summit County and Steamboat.”
Trustee Cheri Sanders voiced her support for the agreement during the beginning of the deliberations by saying “I can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours I have put in on this, and as being a long time resident and knowing the implications both ways, I would say, yes, my thoughts are we need to proceed with annexing Byers Peak Ranch into the Town of Fraser so that the Town of Fraser can watch out for itself and not depend on the county or anybody else to guide our growth.”
Members of the community voiced concerns about the agreement throughout the process and provided a very large amount of input to the town. The public hearings hosted overflowing rooms of concerned citizens and dozens of written comments were submitted to the board during the public comment period.
“I think it’s great that the community really engaged in this,” Durbin said. “People really care about this community and that is a great thing.”
After the public comment period was closed and the board’s deliberations began, Smith gave a synopsis of the final agreement saying “this agreement needs to be considered in its entirety as a collaborative work, which is the best deal we could have reached after years of negotiation, it is not a one sided agreement but a fair agreement that represents the needs of both parties now and 35 years into the future.”
“We all love the beautiful meadow that has graced the valley for hundreds of years and this view is very difficult to give up. I’m asking the board not to focus so much on the view but on the vision of Fraser’s future,” Smith said. “I believe a community that is not growing is in the process of dying. It is my hope tonight that we take the steps necessary to move Fraser to a sustainable future.”
One of the most important pieces of this agreement to the Town of Fraser is the construction and dedication of two water augmentation ponds for the town, which includes junior water rights. The town will be getting 60 acre feet of water storage from the developer who is required through the agreement to complete the construction of two augmentation ponds in a timely manner, something he has already begun. The Forrest Meadows augmentation pond will store 25 acre feet of water for the town and the Byers Peak augmentation pond will store 35-acre feet.
The construction and dedication of these two augmentation ponds will allow the town to firm up their water rights for future use. This is something the town has said is essential to its ability to provide water to current and future residents.
“We will receive 100 percent of the sewer tap fees and a percentage of the water tap fees structured so that the timing coincides with the expansion needs of the town. This is a structured fee program, not a subsidy, it is a financing mechanism that provides both parties with the capital they need when they need it,” Smith said.
The developer has agreed to pay $60,000 once the agreement is executed to allow the town to immediately begin well improvements to supply the first SFEs for the development as well as 160 SFEs for the town. The town will also use the money for the water rights applications for the two augmentation ponds.
Future improvements to the town’s water system will be completed as the project moves forward and more water tap fees are collected.
“I think that it is a tough deal with a lot of emotions surrounding it,” Durbin said. “But at the end of the day this agreement brings some things to this community that the community needs.”
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Editor’s note: The following letter to the community was submitted to the Sky-Hi News by Winter Park Mayor Nick Kutrumbos.