HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — The Grand County Planning Commission unanimously approved the preliminary sketch plan of the 295-acre Byers Peak Ranch development, during the Wednesday, Oct. 9, regular meeting.
The developer of the property, Clark Lipscomb, presented the plan in order to begin the process of gaining approval to construct the development in unincorporated Grand County if Fraser voters reject the annexation agreement and related documents during this November’s election.
The sketch had some changes from the original plan developed with the Town of Fraser including slightly lower density of homes, reduced building height restrictions and a water skiing lake instead of augmentation ponds for the Town of Fraser.
The planning commission approved the preliminary sketch because it fit within the county building and zoning requirements. While this approval is just the first phase of a three-phased process, the planning commission did not find any reason to deny the sketch plan of the property.
Lipscomb commented that his preferred alternative would be to annex into the Town of Fraser rather than build in unincorporated Grand County; however, if Fraser voters turned down the annexation, he would seek building the development in unincorporated Grand County.
The Town of Fraser has been working through the annexation with the developer for longer than six years with three different boards. It finally approved the agreement this year.
The agreement was stopped via petition by residents of the town who think the town should get a better deal from the developer. The annexation agreement will now go to a vote of the people of the town.
One of the Fraser residents who organized the petition, Jane Mather, was present at the meeting and spoke about some of the concerns she and other Fraser residents had with the town’s agreement. She pointed out that the sketch plan submitted to the planning commission had more open space and open views along the Fraser Valley Parkway than the Proposed Development District the town approved.
Melanie Zwick, a Fraser resident, also asked the planning commission whether the developer could be required to use the town’s water and wastewater infrastructure in the event he did build in unincorporated Grand County. The planning commission members and county attorney said that the developer could not be required to use the town’s infrastructure. The developer plans to build his own water and waste water treatment facilities if he were to build the development in unincorporated Grand County, rather than utilize the town’s existing infrastructure.
Mather said she had concerns about the amount of wastewater that would come from a development of this size and also spoke in regards to protecting view corridors.
“The one issue in the master plan that I don’t think received enough attention is the need for open space that protect view corridors and the unique character of our town,” Mather said. “I understand the master plan is advisory, but I think that is something that should be considered and would be beneficial to the town.”
Jay Cluff, also a Fraser resident, voiced concerns about water quality issues. Grand County is a headwaters community and should be concerned about local rivers, he said.
In favor of annexations
Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith also attended and spoke to some of the concerns the Town of Fraser has with allowing the development to be built in unincorporated Grand County, including the loss of land use control, water augmentation and other caveats made by the town.
Smith spoke about the gravel operations agreement she and the other board members had negotiated with the developer.
“I have a feeling that if it goes into the county, it’s going to go under a state gravel permit,” Smith said. “I personally feel uncomfortable with that and that’s why I think it is really important that the Town of Fraser has the supervision of that operation.”
The county would not put the developer’s gravel operation under a special use permit like the town negotiated in the existing agreement, and Lipscomb would be free to transport and store gravel created from the creation of the lake on his property as long as he followed the county’s rules, said Kris Manguso, county planning director.
Another issue was the lower density of the sketch plan presented to the county.
“I do know that you have less density here but I would trade those 400 units for the augmentation storage that I believe would protect and perfect some of our water rights that we have sorely and inadequately not been doing,” Smith said.
The Town of Fraser could lose 60 acre-feet of water augmentation storage that would be built and dedicated to the town by the developer if the annexation agreement were not approved by voters, according to Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin.
“The county has always encouraged developers to go through the towns,” said County Attorney Jack Dicola.
“This is so preliminary, we don’t know if we are going to be hearing it,” said County Planning Commission Member Steven DiSciullo. “This is like 1 inch in a 100-yard game, when this thing goes through preliminary plat, that’s when it will get interesting so keep your powder dry, those of you who have concerns.
“For those of you who live in Fraser,” DiSciullo continued, “I have long been guided by the principle that the government closest to the people is the most responsive to the people. I would think that a city government would hopefully be more responsive to your concerns than a county; obviously, we will try to be completely responsive to your concerns.
“I don’t know the situation with your town government, Fraser you know better than I do,” he said. “I would assume that the people you have the most direct contact with are going to respond the best, but you will make that decision on November 5th.”
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334