Bair Chase rezoning to get another look
December 3, 2007
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County commissioners have decided to reconsider their rezoning of the former Bair Chase property, in what is expected to lead to debate over possible heavy residential development there and how it can best meet needs for affordable housing if it occurs.
County commissioners on Monday unanimously agreed to go back through the rezoning process, based on a request by Related WestPac, the new owner of the 282-acre property between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
The company is considering seeking approval to build almost 1,000 homes there. It had requested the zoning reconsideration after the threat of a lawsuit over whether proper notification of neighboring residents and the general public occurred before the land’s rezoning to high-density residential in April. Attorney Calvin Lee had pressed the notification issue with the county.
Commissioners previously had rejected reconsideration of the issue. Rocky Shepard, Related WestPac’s project manager for what is now being called Cattle Creek Crossing, has said the developers agree with the county’s contention that proper notification had occurred. However, he said Related WestPac didn’t want another question hanging over the property, which has been dogged by problems such as unpaid debts to contractors by a past developer.
Sanders Ranch, an initial proposal for the property, had called for 500 homes, 700,000 square feet of commercial development and a golf course. More recently, as Bair Chase, the development was to have been a golf course community consisting of 230 homes.
Lee contends that prior notification of the April meeting pertained only to planned actions that commissioners might take because an existing planned unit development approval for the 282-acre property was lapsing. He said the notification didn’t indicate commissioners might change the underlying zoning.
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County officials and Related WestPac contend that in considering revoking the PUD, it was implied that the county might rezone the property. However, Commissioner Tresi Houpt said Monday, “I just think this is a really good reminder to us who know and understand the regulations about how we move forward with noticing hearings, because I knew by the language that was used that we would have to have the discussion for zoning at that meeting, but it’s become very apparent that many people in the public didn’t know.”
Related WestPac contends more than 1,600 homes could be built under the high-density zoning. Lee and some other residents say even the 979 that developers tentatively hope to build are too many for a non-urban area.
While developers contend the project would help meet the demand for worker housing, Lee argues it would be an “affordable housing nightmare” and result in “traffic chaos.” He said the 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot homes being considered would be more likely to be bought by retirees and second-home owners.
“No teachers or firemen or policemen can afford what is going to be built there,” he said.
Tom Ziemann is director of Catholic Charities in Glenwood Springs and a member of Congregations and Schools Empowered, a citizens organization that is pushing for affordable housing projects. He said the potential high housing density of the property isn’t a concern for him.
“Our constituents want housing,” he said.
He welcomes the developers’ expressed desires to try to help meet the need for housing affordable to workers. He and other affordable housing advocates hope to persuade Related WestPac to build some low-income rental housing and require that a percentage of the total housing be owner-occupied.
The rezoning of the property first will be considered by the county Planning and Zoning Commission, potentially on Dec. 12.