I’ve followed with great interest the myriad reporting, commentary and letters regarding annexation of the proposed Byers Peak Ranch development. Few pieces, though, look holistically at how yet another large residential development impacts the county or how we‘ve heard this tune before. Grand County, like other mountain counties, is full of unfulfilled development vision: Grand Park, Rendezvous, Coyote Creek, Grand Elk, Granby Ranch and the unrealized Orvis Shorefox are just some of these communities that come to mind.
I noted the response by the Byers Peak applicant in your May 3 edition ran next to a story on Grand Elk’s HOA proposed purchase of its golf course. Grand Elk has been labeled a poster child for failed development, and I wish its owners and HOA much success in rebuilding their community. But Grand Elk also typifies how homeowners can ultimately be left holding the bag once a developer, all Stetson and no cattle, bails out.
During economic upturn there exists a “build it and they will come” development mindset, especially in resort areas. But what supporting census or economic data justifies these building frenzies? The Byers Peak Ranch developer cites a lack of affordable housing, yet excess builder inventory and “buyer incentives,” subsequent builder foreclosures, short sales and “closeout pricing” typically upend the routine real estate ebb and flow, and affect market value and resale for already established owners and residents.
Nearly 2,000 proposed residential and lodging units shoehorned into a half square mile brings to mind an urban public housing enclave. Is this urban patch consistent with the look and natural beauty of a rural mountain town, and does Fraser really want to take on all related issues that can arise when “affordable housing” and such population density converge?
The bigger question is what is the county’s ultimate long-term vision? Does it wish to attract businesses and industry that provide a stable workforce and competitive wages, or is its focus on being a services-based economy? Adding even more residential units absent some master plan for sustainable growth and non-seasonal employment seems rather myopic and benefits no one immediately other than a developer. To be sure, building a new community brings temporary construction work, many jobs even filled by locals, but once complete most workers and their wage dollars will simply move on .
The Byers Peak developer said, “…we are going to need some luck to pull it off and be as successful as we would really like to be, but if we get there, this will probably be one of the premier and most stellar communities.” “Luck,” “would really like,” “but if” and “probably” aren’t exactly convincing word choices (hey…I would really like to win the lottery, but if I have luck I probably might). Tread carefully Fraser and Grand County. As a boss once mentored me, “Never believe promises made by someone not in a position to grant them.” Grand Elk owners, as well as many other county homeowners, are learning this lesson the hard way.
H.L Cork is a retired Air Force officer living in Grand Elk, Granby.