Pitco holds off on critique of Sanders
Bowing to the notion of fairness, Pitkin County yesterday delayed sending off comments on a proposal for a massive residential and commercial development along the banks of the Roaring Fork River in rural Garfield County.
County Commissioner Mick Ireland said development consultant Stan Clauson contacted him Tuesday and asked for a delay on approval of the draft letter about Sanders Ranch because he was leaving town before yesterday’s meeting.
“Stan is preparing his comments for the Garfield County commissioners, and he said he has objections to this letter and wants to get them on the record. We should let him do that,” said Ireland.
Clauson represents Sopris Development Group, owner of the ranch, which is located downvalley from Carbondale between the Aspen Glen housing development and the Sopris Restaurant.
Developers are proposing just under 600 residential units and 300,000 square feet of retail and office space for the 280-acre property. It is the second time the current owners have attempted to develop the land; in 1998, they withdrew an application for 600 residential units and 700,000 square feet of commercial space, dubbed Cattle Creek Crossing, after the Garfield County Planning Commission unanimously recommended it be rejected.
The letter in question is Pitkin County government’s sole opportunity to comment on the proposal, and it is quite critical of both the project and the way it is being portrayed by the developer.
It points out that Sanders Ranch is in rural Garfield County, and is not an “infill” project as portrayed by Sopris Development. It also notes that Sopris Development has yet to convey a 54 acre conservation easement to the Roaring Fork Conservancy, despite a written promise to do so by the end of last August.
The letter further adds that the developer’s own estimates of automobile impacts – 12,500 new vehicle trips per day on that section of Highway 82 – will have a huge impact on traffic between Glenwood and Carbondale. And it reminds Garfield County that RFTA, the local bus agency funded by contributions from governments in the valley, is balking at the idea of serving the development, partly because Garfield County makes no contribution to its budget.
The Pitkin County commissioners agreed to delay a final vote on the letter, but they did not pass on the opportunity to suggest changes that would make it even more critical of the proposal.
Commissioner Leslie Lamont directed staff to sharpen the comments about RFTA’s concerns. And Commissioner Shellie Harper suggested staff take the additional time to see if the Roaring Fork Conservancy or the county’s wildlife biologist think more of the property needs to be protected with a conservation easement.
“It seems like the current conservation easement is a small, isolated island,” she said.
The commissioners will allow comments from Clauson and opponents of the project on either Dec. 7 or Dec. 14, depending on when the consultant returns to town.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.