New Braun Ranch plan gets OK |

New Braun Ranch plan gets OK

Jeremy Heiman

A revised plan for a development of luxury homes on the Braun Ranch in Woody Creek met with little resistance from the Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday.

The plan was presented as settlement for a lawsuit filed by the developer, the St. Clair Co., of Newport Beach, Calif., after the commissioners shot down a somewhat larger proposal for the ranch last summer. According to commissioners, the new application is more palatable than the original because it calls for fewer houses, smaller houses, a safer access road and additional affordable housing.

The commissioners did not complete discussions of the application due to lack of time Tuesday. The details will be worked out between the commissioners and the applicant in public meetings, but because the plan is a legal settlement, the final approval will be granted by the courts.

The original plan called for 14 single-family houses of up to 15,000 square feet. The remaining parcel would have held a single house of up to 12,000 square feet, a caretaker unit and two 1,500-square-foot employee dwellings.

The new plan reduces the number of parcels to 11 and the number of single-family houses to 10. All but two of the houses are reduced to below 15,000 square feet. Two parcels would allow houses up to 12,000 square feet and six would have houses up to 10,000 square feet.

The affordable housing added to the plan is significant. The settlement plan calls for seven affordable housing units with a total of 17 bedrooms, on the site of the former gravel pit on the lower bench of the ranch.

Agricultural buildings, amounting to perhaps as much as 30,000 square feet, would be located in the same parcel. Stables, hay storage and storage for farm implements would be included in this area.

Attorney David Myler, representing the developer, told the commissioners an agricultural easement will require that present agricultural areas continue to be irrigated, and some of the meadows will be converted back to native vegetation.

He noted that neighboring landowner Howard Vagneur had questioned the ability of existing underground water to support the development’s wells.

“We haven’t seen any indication we will have any effect on the aquifer,” Myler said. “As far as recharge, the best thing we can do is continue to irrigate.”

The Woody Creek Caucus gave the project good marks. Barbara Ornitz, speaking for the caucus, noted that the first proposal for the property was a golf-course development, totally unacceptable in the neighborhood. That was followed by a plan calling for a large number of giant houses, which was equally inappropriate.

Some cautions were offered to the developer, however. Ornitz warned that a wildlife corridor runs through the ranch, and the caucus wants to see it preserved.

And neighbor Howie Mallory called for aggressive landscaping to moderate the visual impact of the huge houses.

“There’s not much vegetation up there, and 10,000-square-foot houses, just by virtue of their size, are going to be `in-your-face’ houses,” he said.

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