Fraser board cancels Byers Peak Ranch annexation hearing |

Fraser board cancels Byers Peak Ranch annexation hearing

FRASER – Due to a disagreement about undisclosed, confidential terms in the annexation agreement, the public hearing about annexation of the 295-acre Byers Peak Ranch has been canceled indefinitely. The public hearing was on the agenda for the Fraser Town Board meeting scheduled for March 7. The hearing was later canceled by the board, said town Manager Jeff Durbin. “It was premature to have a public meeting until both the town and Byers Peak Ranch can come to an agreement on acceptable terms,” he said. The town board is determining what the next steps will be, Durbin said. Byers Peak Ranch representatives were surprised to learn the meeting was canceled, but they agreed that the terms of the annexation plan have not been mutually agreed upon. The terms at issue are confidential, according to Jack Bestall, a representative for Byers Peak Ranch owners. However, the property owners are frustrated that they haven’t been able to meet with the town to reach an agreement since they have invested time and energy into annexation, said Bestall. Byers Peak Ranch owners believe there is a benefit for the town to annex Byers Peak Ranch, including augmentation of storage ponds, a 6-acre maintenance facility, and a plan for commercial and residential development. “What is in the plan was approved by the planning commission,” Bestall said. “This is a developer-pays-his-way type of town, and we understand that. What we are seeking is an annexation agreement, that Byers Peak Ranch is on a level playing field with other projects, and we hope that we can meet with the town of Fraser,” he added. “It’s a challenging market and always has been in Grand County. We think we can do something at Byers Peak Ranch that is affordable, and would like to talk more about it with the town. However if we are not able to meet, the ownership of Byers Peak Ranch will need to look at other development alternatives.” Durbin agrees that Byers Peak Ranch should be annexed to the town of Fraser, but in a beneficial manner and not to the detriment of other properties within the town. “The terms of the agreement are key to answer whether annexation could happen,” he said. “The town has invested a lot of time and resources pursuing mutually agreeable terms.” In December 2007 the initial annexation petition was submitted to Fraser town staff. In February 2008 the Fraser Town Board approved the land as eligible for annexation under state statute. In March 2011 the Fraser Planning Commission began its process for annexation of the ranch into town during a public hearing . After three public hearings the Planning Commission recommended planned development district zoning for the property if it should be annexed with a series of conditions in May 2011. Fraser residents can find information about the annexation and meeting agendas on the town of Fraser website:

Fraser residents protest Byers Peak annexation

FRASER — A petition against the town's approval of the annexation of Byers Peak Ranch development has been submitted to the Town of Fraser, with 73 signatures from people who agree with the protest. The petition needed 48 signatures to be considered valid. Although the town determined not all of the signatures were valid, the petition had enough signatures to be legitimate. Any registered elector in the Town can protest the ordinances approving the annexation until Aug. 14. The town board will now have to reexamine the ordinances and decide whether to repeal them based on the public's concern. If the town board decides not to repeal the ordinances, the town's registered electors will be able to vote on the annexation and the terms of the agreement, most likely in the November election. The group who created and submitted the petition is called Fraser and Friends for Responsible Development and is headed by two Fraser residents, Jane Mather and Andy Miller. "We are basically trying to get a little better deal for the Town of Fraser," Miller said. The newsletters highlight the concerns the group has with the agreement, including the allocation of water tap fees and the construction of water storage ponds. The group maintains agreements made are more beneficial to the developer than to the Town. The group has also voiced concerns about the way the property will be developed, saying they would like to see larger buildings hidden from view in order to protect the view of Byers Peak. "Our hope is that the town board would strike a better deal with Clark (the developer) so it won't go to election," Miller said. The annexation agreement was approved by the Fraser Board of Trustees with six yes votes and one no vote on May 29. The annexation of Byers Peak Ranch would 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 were to completely build out the development. The developer of the project, Clark Lipscomb, president of Byers Peak Properties, LLC., stated he intends to build homes on the property that are affordable and will allow residents and newcomers the option to live and work in the Fraser Valley instead of having to live outside of the Valley due to high home prices. The town spent years and hundreds of hours working through the annexation agreement and created a subcommittee dedicated to the project. They also held numerous community meetings to help Fraser residents understand the agreement. The public hearings concerning the project had overflowing attendance of concerned citizens. Not allowing the annexation of the property could present some challenges to the town and its taxpayers.The main concerned voiced by town officials and staff is that the developer will develop the property whether it is annexed into the town or not. The developer could develop the property in unincorporated Grand County if the annexation agreement fell through, meaning the town would have no control over the development and would not see any of the taxes from the development, despite the development being in Fraser's backyard. Another concern surrounds the town's water and its ability to supply current and future residents with water. Part of the agreement is that the developer would construct and dedicate to the town two augmentation ponds that would allow the town to firm up 60 acre-feet of water rights for future use. The agreement also includes provisions for the developer to help pay for improvements to the town's water system, including well improvements and improvements to the town's wastewater plant. If the agreement fails to go through and the town does not receive the proposed water storage and improvements to its water system, the residents of the town will be stuck with those costs, according to Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith. "It will be a matter of educating the public," Smith said. "It's really going to be a challenge to get people to understand the financial ramifications [if the agreement fails]." All of the documents relating to the annexation agreement can be found on the Town of Fraser's website at To be placed on the emailing list of the Fraser and Friends for Responsible Development, you can contact Andy Miller at or 970-726-4099, or Jane Mather at or 970-726-9500. Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

Letter: Mather, Would the long-term cost of $5.5 million have been worth the short-term savings of $650,000?

With the current Town of Fraser election, we are once more debating what types of development agreements the Town of Fraser should sign and what costs Town residents should incur to support growth in Fraser. With my two years of service on the Fraser Town Board, regretfully ending due to the requirements of a new job, I now have an even stronger belief that Fraser voters made the right decision in voting down the 2013 annexation agreement with Byers Peak Properties (BPP), avoiding significant long-term costs and limits on the Town's ability to manage growth. Thanks to that vote, the Fraser Town Board is now negotiating agreements with Clark Lipscomb and BPP that will benefit the Town of Fraser in both the short and long term. In contrast, candidates Smith and Quinn continue to believe voters should have supported the annexation agreement, as indicated in their responses to the SkyHi New's question "Describe one time when you believe the current town board got it wrong." .Mayoral Candidate Smith stated "My biggest regret was our failure annex Byers Peak Ranch into the town of Fraser. As a result, we are spending $650,000 to purchase augmentation storage from Grand County #1." Trustee Candidate Quinn stated "The town board did not get it wrong, however the wrong result occurred when we, as a town, missed the opportunity to have a voice and help direct the land being developed bordering the town of Fraser." He also said that with that vote, residents were trying "to shove the status quo down peoples' throats" and were "freaking out when someone wants to develop a piece of property." True, the Town of Fraser would not be spending $650,000 for augmentation water storage, but that is just the short-term impact. With the proposed annexation, the Town of Fraser would have essentially lost millions in water tap fee revenue. The first 711 water tap fees, about $5.5 million at current rates, would have been collected and held in a separate Developer account. Some of that would have reimbursed BPP for augmentation pond construction, including the cost of ponds that would have been used for snow-making at the Colorado Adventure Park tubing hill, one of the developer's private businesses. Most of that $5.5 million would have been held in this account through the 35-year development period, "locked away," without the ability for the Town of Fraser to use those revenues for other water infrastructure costs that this development would have incurred. Water rates would likely have increased much more than now expected. As to development control, in managing development at Rendezvous and Grand Park, the Town Board faces the constant challenge of working within a 1986 annexation agreement, which locks their hands from making decisions that reflect current conditions and values. Similarly, the BPP annexation agreement would have most likely limited Town of Fraser control not increased it. So if you have yet to vote, please consider whether you want to elect a Mayor and Town Board Trustee who believe that saving $650,000 in the short-term is worth giving up revenue of $5.5 million in the long-run? Or should we have a Mayor and Town Board trustees who respect residents' votes, ask the right questions and demand that the Town Staff find the answers? Jane Mather Fraser

Fraser town meeting Wed., July 18

The Fraser board of trustees are set to meet Wednesday, July 18, when they will consider two new ordinances as well as the proposed annexation of Byers Peak Ranch. The discussion about the possible annexation of Byers Peak Ranch has been ongoing since the petition for annexation was submitted in November 2007. Numerous meetings have taken place regarding the issue, yet no agreement has been reached between the town of Fraser and the proponents of the annexation. The board of trustees for the town of Fraser will vote on Wednesday whether to continue to pursue a mutually acceptable agreement with the petitioner or to deny the annexation petition. If the board were to deny the petition the owner of the property would be liable to reimburse the town for all outside costs, totaling $60,000, according to town officials. Byers Peak representative Jack Bestall said that he has met with the town Annexation Committee, which includes two members of the board of trustees, to develop an outline of what the annexation agreement would contain. The agreement will be presented to the rest of the board during the meeting on Wednesday, he said. New ordinances The two new ordinances to be discussed Wednesday include an ordinance concerning the use of public property and one concerning the discharge of firearms in the town of Fraser. The ordinance concerning the use of public property is Ordinance No. 397 and would give authority to officials and agencies to adopt rules and regulations concerning the legal use of town property. Ordinance No. 398 addresses discharging firearms within the town of Fraser and makes it unlawful to discharge or cause to be discharged, any firearm within or into the town limits. Exemptions to this law are peace officers and members of the armed forces, a person discharging a firearm in the lawful defense of persons or property, and a person who is legally hunting or shooting recreationally who is not endangering adjacent persons or property. The exemptions to a person who is legally hunting or shooting would not apply to the discharge of a firearm 50 feet from the centerline of any public roadway or public property, or within 200 yards of any dwelling or occupied structure.

Fraser residents brace for possible water-rate increases

FRASER — Water users could see an increase of $80 in water and sewer rates in the coming year, pending the validation of the 2014 budget by the town council on Wednesday, Dec. 11, with the possibility of a $113 per-tap special assessment being issued to raise money to address augmentation needs. Rate increases Water and sewer rates for all Fraser water users are proposed to be increased by 8 percent, or $10 a quarter for both water and wastewater rates, equating to $80 a year, in an effort to both battle the rising costs associated with operations and maintenance of the systems as well as to increase the reserve funds for the accounts. The rate increases related to water and wastewater funds come after years of the town's trustees electing to keep water and wastewater rates flat due to concerns about ratepayers' financial strength, according to Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin. In the past — before the town board elected to keep water rates flat — water rates were increased about 5 percent yearly to keep up with rising operations and maintenance costs and to help pay for capital improvement projects, according to Durbin. Rates were kept flat in past years by supplementing revenues with money from the general fund as well as the use of Plant Investment Fees for operational costs for the systems. "It was with regret that the town board increased customer's water/sewer bill by 8 percent in 2014, but given the challenges our utility faces and the many years of deferred maintenance, rate increases are an unfortunate inevitability," according to the 2014 budget message that was released in association with the proposed budget. The rate increases are meant to fund routine operations and maintenance, capital projects, and address inadequate reserves for the two funds, namely the water fund reserve, which will total $360,000 at the end of 2013 with a carry-over balance estimated to be $438,000. While the wastewater fund's balance is much higher, estimated to have a balance of $2.65 million at the end of the year, the board has discussed utilizing this balance in order to address a number of issues the system faces, including plant expansion and addressing infiltration of groundwater into the collection system. Blue Zone special assessment The special assessment that is proposed for Blue Zone users made up of all of Fraser except for the Grand Park and Rendezvous developments, will be used to raise $100,000 to initiate project planning for the "Fraser Firming Project," to augment the town's water supply. The special assessment would equate to a $28.25 quarterly charge, or $113 a year per-tap, that would show on Blue Zone users' bills in 2014. Due to the Byers Peak Ranch annexation agreement being voted down during this November's election, which would have constructed augmentation ponds for use by the town in exchange for future water-plant investment fees associated with the development, the town must pursue another way of constructing augmentation, according to town documents. Moving forward with the augmentation project is a top priority for the town board in 2014, budget documents read. The project will require substantially more funding than the $100,000 the town hopes to raise through the special assessment, but the money raised will begin the process and allow the town to investigate possible augmentation alternatives. The Fraser Town Board has said it believes money for the project should come from Blue Zone users only, as the Grand Park and Rendezvous developments have already constructed these facilities as was required under their annexation agreements. Because the Fraser Firming Project would benefit only Blue Zone users, the town board does not believe it can validate using money from the water fund or its reserves because residents of Rendezvous and Grand Park also pay into those funds. The money raised by the special assessment would only be used for the Fraser Firming Project and any money not spent from the $100,000 will be used solely for the project, according to budget documents. Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

Guest Column: Byers Peak annexation petition puts Fraser at risk

On May 29, the Fraser's Board of Trustees approved the annexation of Byers Peak with a 6-1 vote. This came after an exhaustive effort by the Town beginning in 2007 to make the best decision possible for the future of Fraser and its residents, including months of public testimony and difficult negotiations with the landowner. The Plan was recommended to the Board by the Fraser Planning Commission after several public meetings and three public hearings on May 25, 2011. For the next two years, two different boards carefully evaluated the annexation at workshops, study sessions and public hearings too numerous to list here. The question was never whether Byers Peak Ranch would be developed — the question was whether it would be developed in Fraser or the County. Concerns surfaced when we read in the Sky-Hi News that Andy Miller and Jane Mather were taking steps to submit a petition proposing to place the question of the annexation on the ballot in an effort to take this decision out of the hands of the board. The basis for this is they feel the annexation agreement could be better, they do not understand parts of the agreement "so don't trust it," and the process did not allow for sufficient public input. These assertions could not be further from the truth. The Board listened carefully to residents and negotiated an agreement with the landowner that reflects residents' concerns. If the agreement was any more on the side of the town there would be no agreement and the landowner would be proceeding to develop in the county – which may still happen if the annexation is overturned. Yesterday Cheri Sanders and I met with Jane and Andy to go over their concerns and explain parts of the agreement they said they did not understand. For example, they believe the developer is not paying the way. Fraser's policy is that development pays its way and Byers Peak is required to pay for all costs and assume all risks. There have been suggestions that the Town does not have sufficient water – this is also not the case – our water attorneys and engineers have certified that the town has more than sufficient water for the entire Town and Byers Peak, but needs local water storage facilities to protect the water rights. They believe that the developer is getting free water taps from the town – this is not true, the developer must pay for and construct facilities that may be reimbursed with water taps only for the actual costs certified by the town from the purchase of taps within Byers Peak — protecting residents outside Byers Peak from paying for improvements that will be necessary with or without its development. We met to see if the proposed election that could undermine years of good faith efforts could be averted. The benefits of the annexation will protect the town's water rights and obligations; reduce future costs; create revenue; create jobs; expand the Town's economic base; establish development controls; and require Byers Peak to provide water rights and construct reservoirs to satisfy existing and future water augmentation needs. We think the agreement is very important to Fraser's future and we found that revenues from water/sewer tap fees, building permits, plan review fees, use tax fees and property taxes may help stem the steady decline in town revenues, and are much greater than costs to the Town for the development. The Board did not come to its decision easily. But, we want the residents of Fraser to know that we kept our fiduciary responsibility to make responsible decisions that are in the best interests of the town. Six out of seven Trustees who voted in favor of the annexation believe that the agreement is not perfect, but residents will lose much more by letting Byers Peak be developed in the county. During the discussion yesterday it became evident that Andy and Jane have other reasons for opposing the annexation. We respect the effort that Jane and Andy have made to provide input during the process and we asked them, for the sake of Fraser residents, not to proceed with the petition and risk losing the benefits of the annexation as negotiated. Proceeding with the petition places Fraser at greater risk and increases costs to its residents.

Fraser mulls servicing water to Byers Peak Ranch

FRASER — The Town of Fraser is working through negotiations with the owners of the Byers Peak Ranch property to provide municipal water and sewer services to the planned development. During the Wednesday, Feb. 5, meeting of the Fraser board of trustees, a draft agreement was presented to the board as well as a short presentation from the property owner's spokesperson Jack Bestall. The property's developers are seeking to have the entire planned development serviced by the town's water and sewer system as opposed to their original plans to build an independent water and sewer system for the development. The move to request town water and sewer services comes after possible annexation of the property, which sits directly southwest of the town, was voted down by Fraser voters during the November 2013 election. After the annexation agreement was voted down, the developer applied to build the property in unincorporated Grand County, for which the county has approved a sketch plan. Bestall has said that while the move to service the development with the town's water and sewer system could provide for a future opportunity to annex the property into town, the owners of the property are not interested in hearing discussions regarding annexation at this time and will move forward with building the development in unincorporated Grand County. Residents of the Fraser Valley opposed the annexation agreement in part due to the portion of the agreement that focused on water and wastewater service for the development. "I'm really happy to see Byers Peak come back with this service agreement because it addresses some of the problems that were in the annexation agreement," said Jane Mather, one of the Fraser residents who opposed the annexation agreement and ultimately challenged the agreement and sent it to a vote. "But we want to make sure the additional costs of serving this development doesn't fall on the residents of Fraser." "We are interested in coming to an agreement," Bestall said. "But we are not interested in raising old arguments." The draft service agreement that was presented to the Fraser town board on Wednesday states the town would supply 1,233 single family equivalents, or SFEs, to the development, which would cover the entire planned development. The agreement also provides for the developer bearing the cost to connect to the town's water system, including any construction costs to connect to the system. Proceeding with caution Residents of the Fraser Valley who wanted to ensure the town would not incur the costs of the connections raised concerns at the Wednesday meeting. Andy Miller, a resident of Fraser, said he wanted to see further evaluation of the impacts of the increased SFEs as it wasn't clear if the existing water infrastructure the town has would handle the additional users. Part of the draft water service agreement allows for the town to use existing water storage at Grand Park ponds to protect the town if senior water-rights holders farther down river were to call for water. The risk of having a call placed for water downstream by senior water-rights holders is becoming increasingly dangerous as water users downstream are experiencing drought conditions, such as California, which currently has only 12 percent of normal snowpack. "We have to be prepared for large climate shifts because they are beginning to occur," Miller said. Bestall also stated that the developers believe the revenue generated from adding the water taps to serve the proposed development could help reduce or alleviate the Fraser Firming Fee that was imposed on Old Town residents earlier this year. Implementation of fees began the process of ultimately building town water augmentation ponds. According to Bestall, the town stands to collect a substantial amount of revenue if the agreement were to go through, including nearly $9.5 million in water tap fees and about the same amount in sewer tap fees as well as collection of water usage fees that will be charged to the residents of the new development if the town were to serve the development. While the agreement is still in draft phase, the town is working toward finalizing the agreement and expects the topic to be highlighted in upcoming town board meetings. "I anticipate this subject to come up at the next four or five meetings," said Mayor of Fraser Peggy Smith. The draft agreement as well as a copy of Bestall's presentation to the board can be found at the town's website at by clicking on the pull-down menu "government," to "board of trustees" to "agendas," to "current board of trustees packet." Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

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." Water 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."

A voter’s guide to the Byers Peak Annexation agreement

On Nov. 5, Fraser voters will decide whether to annex a 295-acre parcel and accompanying development located directly southwest of the town. After six years of negotiations with the developer by three consecutive town boards, the Byers Peak Ranch annexation agreement was approved by a six to one vote in May of this year. The approved agreement was successfully petitioned by a group of Fraser residents called Fraser and Friends for Responsible Development, spearheaded by Andy Miller and Jane Mather of Fraser. The petition put the agreement to a vote of the people, which is where the agreement now sits. The Fraser and Friends for Responsible Development maintain they want to put the town in a better position by renegotiating an agreement, however the developer of the property, Byers Peak Properties, LLC, Clark Lipscomb, president, has confirmed that if the agreement were voted down, he would pursue developing the property within unincorporated Grand County. The Grand County Planning Commission already has approved preliminary sketches for a Byers Peak development, in the event it is not annexed into Fraser. Fraser voters are now faced with the decision of whether to annex the property into the town or allow for the property to be developed in the county. While the decision will be made by yes or no votes on ballots, the decision does not come easy for town residents as they weigh the pros and cons of annexation. Understanding the agreement is an arduous task. The multi-million dollar question is what exactly the town stands to lose or gain if the annexation is approved and what the town stands to lose or gain if the development is built in the county. Water storage The most important part of the Byers Peak Ranch annexation agreement in the Town of Fraser's opinion concerns water augmentation. In the existing agreement, the town has brokered with the developer for him to build and dedicate to the town two reservoirs with a total aggregate storage of 60-acre feet of water. Both proponents and opponents of the annexation agree that water storage is a necessity for the town in order to protect existing water rights the town has and to protect the water availability to Fraser's "blue zone" water users. The blue zone is comprised of "Old Town," Workshire Acres, Byer's Vista, Victoria Village, Lower Ptarmigan, Upper Ptarmigan, Forest Meadows, Wapiti Meadows, and the Fox Run subdivisions. The town needs this water augmentation for in the event senior water rights holders, located downstream of the town, call for water. In the town's current situation, if those senior water rights holders were to place a call on the river, the town potentially would have to reduce the amount of water being pumped from wells that supply blue zone users, or completely shut down pumping from these wells. In such a scenario, blue zone users could end up with less water or no water. The risk of having to reduce or stop pumping from the wells that supply the blue zone users is a reality in as few as two consecutive drought years, according to Fraser Trustee and Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Sumrall. Augmentation ponds would serve as needed back-up water. If the developer of the property were to build in unincorporated Grand County, the town would not receive these water storage facilities and would have to seek other ways to ensure blue zone users would always have water. Opponents of the annexation assert the town should have spent more time looking into alternative ways to protect the blue zone's users, and believe ponds can be built cheaper than what is outlined in the agreement. The town relied on cost estimates from its engineer and views the annexation agreement as an ideal opportunity to complete this task. The town does have other opportunities to mitigate its blue zone water needs, though most of those would be dependent on renewable agreements that would require annual payments, according to the town. There stands the possibility such agreements would not be renewed if agreeing parties needed change, Sumrall said, saying reservoirs are the best way for the town to stay in control of its future in the long-term. It is possible the town could build augmentation ponds without the Byers agreement, though currently the town does not have the financial resources to undertake such a project, he said. Building augmentation ponds without the Byers agreement would require obtaining land for pond construction, financing construction of ponds, legal fees, and paying off financing by either a mill levy or possible rate increase to the town's blue zone users. Rate increases would not be split among all town water users due to the development agreements made with Rendezvous and Grand Park, town officials said, which are serviced by the town's yellow zone water system. Rendezvous and Grand Park agreements stipulate all plant investment fees, or tap fees, paid for by new yellow zone customers go toward paying for the building and expansion of the yellow zone. Blue zone users — or 889 Fraser residents — likely would bear the full weight of paying for water augmentation if the agreement were voted down. The town engineer estimates the cost to secure water rights and build an acre-foot of water storage is $75,000, according to annexation agreement documents, bringing the cost of constructing 60-acre feet to $4.5 million. The developer would be required to build two augmentation ponds, called the Forrest Meadows Augmentation Pond and the Byers Peak Ranch Augmentation Pond, within 11 years after the agreement is enacted. The developer would pay for the design, construction, and all legal fees associated with dedicating the ponds to the town, under the annexation agreement. The money spent by the developer to construct the ponds would be recouped through collection of water tap fees once the developer begins to construct buildings on the property. The town would collect and hold the first 711 water tap fees sold in the Byers development in a separate account as security for construction of ponds, according to the annexation agreement. The town's current rate for a water tap fee is $7,700. After collecting 711 water tap fees, the account is estimated to end up with $5.5 million. The town's current well system, with minimal investment, can serve these initial water taps and the town does not anticipate having to make further upgrades until after the first 711 water taps. After the first 711 water tap fees are collected and reimbursed to the developer, the town will then begin spliting water tap fees with the developer in order to pay for further upgrades to its system, according to annexation documents. Though opponents to the annexation believe the town should split water tap fees with the developer from the beginning to ensure the development contributes to both new and existing infrastructure instead of just getting reimbursed for building the augmentation ponds. According to the existing agreement, if the cost to build the water facilities falls under $5.5 million, the town would keep the remaining balance. If the cost exceeds $5.5 million, the developer would not be reimbursed for the overage. In essence the developer is loaning the town money to construct ponds, at zero percent interest, and would be reimbursed once the ponds are completed and the town has certified cost. But opponents question the town's logic in reimbursing tap fees once the ponds are built, saying the town could come out ahead if it were to use revenue from tap fees to build augmentation ponds on its own, without relying on the developer, Clark Lipscomb. If the developer never builds a home in the development, the agreement states, the town would still have 60-acre feet of water storage and the developer would have no way of getting paid for ponds construction. The developer also agreed to give the town access to 30-acre feet of water in existing Grand Park augmentation ponds until construction of the two storage ponds.
Opponents of the annexation state they believe water tap fees should be split from the beginning to ensure this development contributes to both new and existing water infrastructure. Potential revenues and impacts Whether the development is annexed into the town, the town stands to benefit from sales tax revenues from people who move there and spend money at local businesses. However, the town may also see impacts, such as increased traffic, gravel operations and construction traffic. Revenue the town stands to lose if the development were built in the county includes property taxes, use taxes, wastewater plant investment fees and its share of the water plant fees. Using assumptions of average square-footage and maximum number of residential units, it's estimated use tax revenue would be $7.35 million upon build-out. (According to Winter Park/Fraser Building Official Harold Howland, an average home likely would be 2,000 square-feet with a 500 square-foot garage) The town would miss out on revenue from fees and taxes collected in connection with the development, but it would also not be responsible for expenses related to the development, such as providing more police protection, snow removal and street and sidewalk repair. Property taxes would be collected on an annual basis and would be based off value of properties, money sufficient enough to maintain public streets and provide police protection, according to Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith. Town officials maintain projected revenue generated from the project would exceed development-related expenses. The split structure of the water tap fees would provide the town enough revenue to expand the water system, the agreement states, as the town and Byers development grow and need more water infrastructure. The town would keep 100 percent of wastewater plant investment fees, which are presently $7,500 each. In theory, if the town had more customers paying in to its water and wastewater system, the proportionate share of basic operating costs would be less. If Byers is developed in the county, and if the developer chooses not to use the town's water system, the town would not collect water and wastewater fees from Byers residents. The developer has said he plans to construct his own water and wastewater facilities. The county would most likely negotiate some form of compensation for traffic impacts to the town if the development were built in the county; however, what those are remains unclear, according to Grand County Planner Kris Manguso. Zoning and density The planned development district plan in Fraser differs from the county sketch plan in that it has commercial zoning and more density than the county plan. Amounts of required open space are the same in the two plans. Open space under both plans is required to be at least 20 percent of the total acreage of the project. Under the town's planned development district plan there are 23.3 acres of the property zoned as mixed-use for commercial and industrial usage, comprising 7.9 percent of the property. Under the town's plan, six acres or 39,000 square feet would be dedicated to the town to use at it sees fit and 181,000 square feet would be designated for light industrial, warehouse and storage facility uses. The sketch plan submitted to the county has no portion of the property zoned for commercial use. The average density under the town's plan is 4.9 units per acre and the average density in relation to the sketch plan submitted to the county is currently labeled as "approximately 4 dwelling units per acre." Opponents to the town annexation applaud the preliminary county plan for having homes more clustered, less density and lower building heights. The town's plan currently calls for 1,897 units, while the sketch plan submitted to the county calls for 1,233 units. The county's and town's plans differ in height limits of buildings and have changes to setbacks. The developer requested and received a variance for the height limitations in portions of the town's plan of 45 feet. In the sketch plan submitted to the county, the buildings presently do not exceed 35 feet. The height variance approved by the town allows for more flexibility in architectural design of buildings, according to Lipscomb. The buildings setbacks in the county sketch plan are 30 feet. The building setbacks in the town's plan vary according to planning area and are anywhere from 20 feet to 50 feet, dependent on building height. The town negotiated for larger setbacks from Mill Avenue, comprised of 50 feet of open space trail, to preserve the views of existing structures on the north side of Mill Avenue. Under the county sketch plan, the developer is not required to increase setbacks. Land use control The Byers property is designated as a Fraser growth area in the Grand County Master Plan. The town stands to lose total control over land use and development oversight, if the development remains in-county. Town officials negotiated gravel operations associated with ponds construction, brokering a strict plan, such as limiting truck traffic during High Country Stampede Rodeos. The plan is deemed more strict than if gravel operations were permitted through the state, which may occur if the development remains in-county. The agreement limits the acerage of land the developer can excavate at one time and limits the height and duration of each gravel pile. The developer is also held responsible for street repair needed due to gravel operations. In the town's agreement, the Planned Development District Plan splits the property into 11 different development areas. The developer would have to gain approval before commencing development for each area. As it presently stands through the county, the developer would seek one approval for the whole subdivision. The town has negotiated the agreement to ensure that any purchaser of the property and accompanying agreement would be held to the same responsibilities as Byers Peak Properties, according to town officials.

Letter: Vote ‘no’ on Fraser Byers Peak Referendums 300 and 301

To the Editor: Are you confused about the Byers Peak Properties annexation issues, Referendums 300 and 301? No wonder! The Town is giving up money to the developer for water taps. True. The developer is paying for water taps. True. In order to get the whole picture of this issue, one needs to read the Annexation Agreement and related documents. Money changes hands between the developer and the Town for water taps. If you follow the complicated agreement, the numbers add up to a net minus of $9.8 million dollars in water tap fees for the Town. Plus another almost $2 million dollars in "subsidy" to the developer for water system "enhancements" which the town's contracted attorney suggests in the Annexation Agreement that the Town get a loan to pay for. This nearly $12 million dollars is money that should be paid into our struggling water fund, rather than for the benefit of the developer. We'll get water storage. True We'll have to pay dearly for water storage. True. The Annexation Agreement provides for the Town to pay the developer $4.5 million dollars in a no-bid contract to build a pond for water storage. The developer gets to have commercial gravel operations from what is excavated from the ponds and he can use the ponds for his personal or business benefit. In return, the Town is required to pay for the operation and maintenance of the pond. If the property is developed through the County, the Town would need to look at other options for water storage. There are less expensive options available. Since the Town would not have to get a loan to finance the water system "enhancements" needed for the development, such a loan could be used to provide for water storage instead. If this property is developed through the County, the Town cannot be required to pay to provide water and/or sewer service by the State or County. If the Town would provide services, they would be paid for. Additionally, the cost of development would be shared by the whole county rather than only Fraser working to support such a large development. Please vote No on Referendums 300 and 301. We can't afford to give up the money and additional property rights, which the Annexation Agreement requires. Melanie Zwick Fraser