Guest Opinion: Byers Peak Ranch would brings revenue, benefits to Fraser

Jack Bestall
Guest Opinion
Fraser, CO Colorado

Statements and questions at last week’s Byers Peak Ranch annexation public hearing in Fraser could use clarification.

Working in Grand County since 1997 – living here for 10 years – I participated in annexations in Fraser and Winter Park and know these processes do not make for easy communication. Much like the campfire story, content can get lost in translation as it bends its way around the circle, sometimes resulting in falsehoods meant to influence the outcome of the story. There is a vision of partnership that can be fulfilled by Byers Peak Ranch and Fraser, and this is written in that spirit.

The annexation process began in 2007 and much effort has been made by both parties. The idea of developing Byers Peak Ranch is not new – the land was rezoned for development in the 1970’s and purchased by the Wu family, who held it for a number of years as a real estate investment. The land’s scenic quality and relationship to Fraser are well-established; it should be a part of Fraser. However, if not annexed, the owners have determined to develop it in Grand County.

The Plan addresses many critical issues including unresolved drainage conditions, water needs and difficult market conditions – impacting all of Fraser. The development will create jobs, expand the economic base, attract families and produce revenue for the Town while spreading existing costs of the water and sewer system beyond current residents. Historically, development in the Fraser Valley has been slow-paced – the Maryvale plan (Rendezvous/Grand Park) was approved in 1986 and is still being developed 27 years later. The 35-year commitment attached to the land is necessary to create certainty for the Town and ownership.

Fraser has been tough, negotiating major benefits and protections for the Town and its residents. Byers Peak Ranch seeks an agreement to deliver market-ready, attainable development. Because Fraser’s revenues have declined over the past 10 years, revenue is important to the annexation. Revenues from water/sewer tap fees, building permits, plan review fees, use tax fees and property taxes for developing one-half of the project are estimated at $26.2 million. Looking only at the Use Tax portion, Fraser projects revenue of $3-12 million and savings of $4.5 million on constructed water storage. If infrastructure paid for and constructed by development serves non-project areas, there may be a reimbursement – but only when development occurs and taps are purchased. Reimbursement would be made to a Metropolitan District approved by Fraser in 2005 from fees paid to Fraser. So, development pays all costs and assumes all risks – there is no subsidy for development in Fraser.

The annexation secures Fraser’s water future. The Town has sufficient water, according to town engineers. But Fraser needs local water storage to protect its water rights. Fraser is requiring Byers Peak Ranch to provide water rights and construct reservoirs to satisfy existing and future water augmentation requirements. As a guarantee, if the reservoirs are not constructed, water storage must be provided to Fraser in existing reservoirs. Since the Ranch currently diverts more water for irrigation than needed for development and reservoirs, there should be no impact to the St. Louis Creek drainage. Drainage conditions will also be improved with controlled irrigation and facilities constructed according to Fraser standards.

The end of this story is yet to be written. We do know that change is a slow process in the Fraser Valley – on both sides of each issue it comes difficult, even on decisions made 30 years ago. According to the NWCOG Transitions in Mountain Communities Report, development of market-ready local and visitor housing, recreation and commercial uses, and protection of scenic values are key elements of sustainable mountain resort towns. The Fraser economy relies on this, moving from agriculture in its early history to recreational tourism. A successful partnership with Fraser and Byers Peak Ranch offers a revived economy, opportunities for residents and businesses, and long term water security.

Jack Bestall – Bestall Collaborative Limited 720-810-6480

Owner’s Representative to BPR LLC, Downhill Adventures LLC

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