Eagle County BoCC sued over affordable housing, land use decision in Roaring Fork project | AspenTimes.com

Eagle County BoCC sued over affordable housing, land use decision in Roaring Fork project

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily

Two of the three Eagle County commissioners are accused of violating the county's own affordable-housing and land-use regulations, in a lawsuit by a Roaring Fork Valley group.

In its response, Eagle County denied all the allegations, and is asking that Save Mid Valley pay all court costs and attorney's fees.

They'll fight it out in court later this year.

How we got here

In June, commissioners Jill Ryan and Jeanne McQueeney voted to approve Woody Ventures LLC's plan to build 135,000 square feet of commercial space and 340 housing units near Basalt in the Roaring Fork Valley section of Eagle County along Highway 82 across from Whole Foods. Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry voted against it.

The Roaring Fork Valley planning commission unanimously recommended that the Eagle County commissioners deny the project in the area known as the Tree Farm. Basalt's Town Council and Pitkin County also urged the Eagle County commissioners to reject it.

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Kenneth Randsford and Save Mid Valley, a nonprofit launched to fight the project, hired Basalt attorneys Tim Whitsitt and Eric Gross to sue the county commissioners. In their lawsuit, Save Mid Valley asserts that Ryan and McQueeney violated Eagle County's policies and regulations because:

The project fails to provide the required number of affordable-housing units, and that the developers reduced the amount of affordable housing by two-thirds, from 128 to 45. The lawsuit also alleges that there are no permanent deed restrictions. The plan allows owners 60 days to sell a unit. If it doesn't sell within that time, then the owners can sell it for any price they want, the lawsuit alleges.

McQueeney and Ryan are illegally levying a new real estate transfer tax. That violates Colorado's TABOR Amendment that eliminated new real estate transfer taxes after its 1992 passage.

The lawsuit alleges that Ryan and McQueeney violated Eagle County land-use regulations that allow one two-year extension of a plan's approval. The original Tree Farm plan was approved in 1993. This project was originally approved in 2009, but was shelved when the economy tanked. The lawsuit alleges that the county commissioners gave the developers six years of extensions beyond the original two years. That exceeds the Eagle County commissioners' authority, and if the area is going to be developed, it should happen under the zoning in place in 1993 — one home per 35 acres, the lawsuit alleges.

Eagle County completely disagrees

In its response, Eagle County counters that the multiple extensions were based on Woody Ventures' amendments to the plan, and that those amendments were based on public input. The county also says that the project's June approval comes within the two-year deadline of the latest application in 2014.

"The Board of County Commissioners denies that the plaintiffs' interpretation of the (Eagle County land-use regulations) is correct, and further denies any allegations or characterizations that are inconsistent with the ECLUR. BOCC further denies the applicability of any versions of the ECLUR that predate the 2014 submission date," the county said in its response to the lawsuit.

District Court Judge Kenneth Plotz has ruled that the case can go forward with transcripts from the Eagle County commissioners' multiple public hearings about the project. Plotz gave both 60 days to produce the transcripts.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.