Missouri Heights subdivision sparks criticism from neighbors
Opponents of the proposed Hunt Ranch subdivision in Missouri Heights objected last week to everything from the project’s possible density to the potential for light pollution and the effect on area water resources.One neighbor of the planned subdivision, speaking at a meeting Thursday in the historic Missouri Heights Community Center, said she would fight the project at every step of the approval process.But others, while perhaps not exactly in favor of the proposed development, indicated some gratitude that the developers were open to the idea of working with the neighbors.And preserving at least some of the property for agricultural use and natural open space, rather then putting in a golf course, and limiting the use of fences to carve up what historically has been a medium-sized ranch also were mentioned as positives.The developers, AMS Development Inc. of Vail, have a contract to buy the 565-acre ranch from owner Dick Hunt. He listed the land for $8.7 million, according to Michele Kister of Mason & Morse Real Estate, one of the land brokers working on the deal.The land was homesteaded around the turn of the 20th century by Pat and Margaret McNulty, according to Anita McCune Witt’s book, “They Came From Missouri: The History of Missouri Heights, Colorado.” The ranch was owned at different times by Missouri physician Oscar Clagett (who has a hospital in Rifle named after him) and the locally well-known Fender family, before it was bought by Hunt in 1967.The developers say they want to build up to 94 homes on lots ranging from two acres to 10 acres, with much of the property preserved as open space and used as pasture for cattle. They also plan on building an equestrian center for use by the project’s landowners only.Greg Amsden, a partner in the proposal, said the subdivision is in its conceptual stage, meaning nothing has been submitted to Garfield County for formal review.The lot prices would range from about $200,000 to slightly more than $500,000, according to Amsden.Based on Thursday’s presentation, the developers believe their project would be compatible with neighboring developments, including King’s Row and its lots of two acres and larger, and Panorama Ranches, where the lots are five acres and up.The project will use about 45 percent of the land for homes, about 51 percent for open space and the remaining 4 percent for roads and other common improvements. About 25 area residents attended the meeting.Practically speaking, said planner John McCarty of OTAK, the local planning firm working with AMS Development, only about 10 percent of the land area, or 60 acres, will actually be disturbed by construction.McCarty showed photos of various locations around the Hunt Ranch to illustrate how the homes would be situated to avoid disrupting neighbors’ views.But at least one neighbor, homeowner Sue Edmonds, complained that the pictures did not accurately represent the view from her house, implying that her views would, in fact, be disrupted.”I’m not going to present that you’re not going to see buildings here,” replied McCarty. But he said the building envelopes would be placed to minimize the homes’ visibility.Toward the end of the discussion, Edmonds told the developers that she found “all of this offensive. I find 94 houses offensive.”There is a finite number of people who can live in Missouri Heights, given water availability and other issues, she said. Edmonds added that she and others feel development of the Hunt Ranch project would mean the “carrying capacity of the land” would be exceeded because “the ecosystem is not going to support it.”Maybe you are about to pay too much for that ranch,” she said, declaring that she and the group she belongs to, the Missouri Heights Well Users Alliance, “will fight you on this development at every step of the way.”More than one neighbor expressed concern about the project’s impact on the area’s water resources. One man recalled a time several years ago during “the heart of the drought,” when thirsty cows were escaping from fenced ranch lands and went marauding through neighboring residential areas. The developers assured the residents that they had sufficient water rights to meet the project’s needs without hurting the region’s water supply.When pressed by some neighbors to sell all the lots at 10 acres apiece, thereby reducing the density, Amsden said flatly that “the economics don’t work at 10-acre lots … it’s not going to happen.”At the urging of neighboring landowner Davis Farrar, McCarty and the development team agreed to go back to the drawing board and consider using a planned unit development application process.Among other benefits, Farrar told the group, a PUD may permit the developers to configure the placement of homes, and the arrangement of open space, trails and pasture lands, in a way that could increase the feeling of preserving open ranch land.Farrar also expressed concern about light pollution. He asked the developers to avoid the use of street lights, security lights and interior lighting that might radiate out into the night skies.But another neighbor, Becky Stirling, a developer of the nearby Stirling Ranch subdivision, noted that AMS Development at least was holding meetings.”We need to use this arena … to work with a positive development plan,” she said.Rob Tobias, also a member of the Alliance, was not at the meeting but noted that the group has hired attorneys Jody Edwards and Kevin Patrick to help them in their battle.”The group is interested in seeing responsible growth,” he said, and preventing developers who have exhausted the potential of the Eagle Valley from “exporting that type of land use here into our valley.”Less stringent development restrictions along in Eagle County, many area residents say, have yielded a much higher density of growth, and a greater feeling of suburban and industrial sprawl, than exists in the Roaring Fork Valley.”I think a lot of people should be concerned,” said Tobias, noting that while the AMS team of developers put considerable emphasis on the relatively high density of King’s Row and Panorama Ranch, “those projects were put in place 25 or 30 years ago. Thinking is a little bit different now.”John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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