New housing development near Catherine Store possible | AspenTimes.com

New housing development near Catherine Store possible

Ryan Summerlin
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

A developer is considering a rural property near Catherine Store east of Carbondale to propose a residential development of potentially hundreds of compact homes. But first they'll have to get Garfield County to create a new land-use designation allowing higher-density developments.

The 41-acre property sits near the northeast corner of the intersection at Colorado 82 and Garfield County Road 100, also known as Catherine Store Road.

The project is still early in the process. Developer Ken Arnold said he doesn't have conceptual drawings yet and doesn't know how many homes his group will design into the project.

But, depending on what level of density they can get the county to approve, it could be anywhere from about 200 to 400 homes, said Arnold, managing member of Gatorcap, based in Aspen and Miami.

Some neighbors to the property have already raised concerns about the impacts of a high-density development in the area, worrying that this project would severely alter the rural character of the neighborhood.

The property is currently zoned "rural," which requires a minimum of 6 acres per home. According to county staff, the highest-density designation available in the comprehensive plan is "residential high density," which would still only give the developer 124 homes on this 41-acre site.

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So, the developer's first step will be to propose a new land-use designation to the county's comprehensive plan. The proposed amendment would allow for five to 10 single-family houses per acre.

The Garfield County Planning Commission will consider the proposed amendment during its Dec. 13 meeting.

These homes would be smaller than the average single-family home size in America, which is about 2,500 square feet, Arnold said. He's envisioning homes of about 800 square feet, on average, and up to 1,500 square feet.

But these will still be traditional foundation homes, he said, "not on wheels, and not tiny homes." The typical unit size would be two bedrooms, he said.

Among the property's attractions, Arnold said, are its proximity to a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority park and ride and its location midway up the Roaring Fork Valley.

He said this is a unique opportunity to have what he described as a beautiful residential village near a bus stop, at a great location that allows people get on the bus to go up and down the valley without their cars.

People would move here not from Pittsburgh, he referenced by example, but from Rifle and other downvalley communities.

The developer hopes to halve the drive for downvalley residents who work in Aspen.

"That will mean a better quality of life and reduced number of vehicles on the highway," Arnold said. "At some point the community needs to decide what's best for them, and this location is very important and will benefit the community."

The developer plans to build "very compact and efficient homes," but with high-end finishes and appliances and lots of amenities, including a pool and dog park. "This would be a really great lifestyle community," Arnold said.

But neighbors like Peter LaMorte are concerned about the impact of increased traffic on Catherine Store Road and the impact to their well water.

The rural zoning currently in place is consistent with surrounding developments on the north side of the highway, but there is no precedent for the level of density this development would bring, LaMorte said.

"Existing residents of the area chose to make their life here and build a community because of the zoning in place and the rural lifestyle it afforded," he said. "To change that to an uncharacteristic high density would be a betrayal of the trust we had in the zoning regulations."

Countered Arnold, "Regardless of whether my project goes through or not, this is what the community should want for an area like this, to provide affordable workforce housing" with access to the bus line, he said.

And, it's a part of the Roaring Fork Valley that will continuously have people looking at residential development potential, he said.

The site also affords the opportunity for an "environmentally sensitive project," with potential for electric car plug-in stations and integration of solar panels.

Arnold said it's too early to estimate price points for the units, but that the goal is for units that people working at hotels or restaurants can afford.

"We believe this is going to be very affordable for those types of employees and something this valley really needs," he said.

The county's comprehensive plan already contemplates higher-density projects near Catherine Store, Arnold said.

If the developer is successful in creating the higher-density designation, he said they'll begin the process to get the property formally rezoned.