County to hear Deane appeal on Maroon Creek land plan
An extremely rare appeal of Pitkin County’s growth management scoring system, involving one of the most familiar names in local ranching, is expected to come before the county commissioners next year.Buck Deane, a member of the Deane family that has owned and operated the T Lazy 7 Ranch for more than a century, is appealing a determination by the county planning and zoning commission regarding his 184-acre parcel along Maroon Creek. The land in question is separate from the T Lazy 7 RanchDeane, who lives in Carbondale and is no longer involved with his family’s ranch, is proposing to divide his property into five lots with approvals to build homes as large 11,250 square feet.But the proposal did not pass muster on Dec. 10 with the planning and zoning commission, which scored it against a long list of criteria as part of the county’s growth management system.The homes, if eventually approved, would be placed along the banks of Maroon Creek between the T Lazy 7 and the Maroon Creek Ranch subdivision. Each would come with a caretaker unit and access to a common agricultural building.”The proposal completely avoids development within any flood plains, avalanche zones, landslide areas, rock fall hazard areas, severe wildfire hazard areas and slopes of 30 percent or greater,” attorney Herb Klein wrote in the appeal, filed at the end of last week.Deane’s hired guns ? Klein and Mitch Haas, a land-use consultant ? also point out that the proposal represents much less than is actually allowed under the current zoning. Instead of applying to build 14 homes, Deane is only asking for five. The houses and access roads would consume about six acres in total, according to the application.The development proposal has nevertheless met resistance at every step of the review process, with letters of opposition from neighbors and recommendations of denial from the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, the county planning staff and most recently the planning and zoning commission (P&Z).”The construction of five 11,250 square foot homes along the back of the meadow will create a significant change in the character of the neighborhood,” wrote Stanley Hoffberger, a resident of the Maroon Creek Ranch subdivision.He pointed out that all of the homes in the immediate area are under 5,500 square feet, and many are less than 4,000 square feet in total floor area.”This would create another ‘Red Mountain’ effect where it doesn’t belong,” wrote Hoffberger, who will be severely impacted by one lot in particular.The housing authority recommended denial because Deane is not proposing to build affordable housing or pay into the affordable housing fund. The P&Z’s determination is the latest blow.As part of the growth management system, the planning commissioners rate each application against a list of criteria once a year to determine whether it should be allotted some or all of the building rights that are available in the respective neighborhood.Those criteria include everything from the soundness of water and septic systems, to the efforts of the developer to cluster the buildings, to effects on wildlife and visual aspects of a proposed development.Each neighborhood is allotted a certain amount of building rights annually. In Maroon Creek, the total square footage that can be gained through the growth management scoring system is 25,000 square feet. Other neighborhoods have similar allotments that can be gained through growth management competition.The applications that score highest get the highest priority when the square footage is doled out, but there is a minimum threshold that must be met before an application can receive any.The square-footage gained through the growth management system can be used to create development rights where none currently exist, as is the case on four of the five parcels proposed by Deane, or to add to the amount of square footage on a parcel that already has development rights.In the case of the Deane proposal, which was made under the name of his company, the Roaring Fork Land and Cattle Co., the application fell just short of the minimum threshold.The Roaring Fork Land and Cattle Co. “respectfully contends that some of the P&Z allowed their views … to bias their scoring of the GMQS [Growth Management Quota System] application,” wrote Klein.The appeal challenges a number of the determinations made by the P&Z members as they scored the Deane application.In the case of the access road, the planning commissioners gave the application a low score because it would apparently go through an area where the likelihood of an avalanche is high.But Klein argues the map is inaccurate and that the road will in fact avoid the so-called red zone.In the area of open space/agricultural land preservation, the P&Z scored the application below the maximum because two lots will consume about 5 percent of the irrigated lands.But Klein noted that that amount is allowable under the land-use code and pointed out that the vast majority of the property will be preserved, and in some areas wildlife habitat will be improved.Deane, through Klein, is protesting scoring in other areas as well, such as visual impacts and whether it is below the allowable density.Although the application only calls for five homes, well below the 14 allowed under the current land-use code, one P&Z member nevertheless scored zero on that criteria.Klein’s appeal maintains that the P&Z member in question scored a zero on the basis that because the application was using a state law which allows landowners to divide their property into 35-acre lots, it is in fact using 100 percent of the potential density, not 35 percent as Deane and his consultants maintain.No date has been set for the appeal. The county commissioners can take a number of possible actions, including remanding the application back to the P&Z for reconsideration, rescoring it themselves, denying the appeal or approving the application in spite of the P&Z’s scoring.Applicants like Deane can get around the growth management system by purchasing transferable development rights from landowners in rural and remote areas. That option, with a review in front of the county hearing officer, remains open to Deane, according to Lance Clarke, the county’s deputy director of community development.[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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