Pitco planners recommend W/J denial | AspenTimes.com

Pitco planners recommend W/J denial

Allyn HarveyAspen Times Staff Writer

The latest plan for developing the W/J Ranch suffered a significant blow Tuesday at the hands of the county Planning and Zoning Commission.The P&Z voted unanimously to recommend denial of the application by Lowe W/J Inc. to build 12 free-market and 28 affordable-housing units on the ranch, located between the McLain Flats and Woody Creek neighborhoods.Aspen-based Lowe W/J, which bought the ranch two years ago from John Musick, is seeking major changes to the existing zoning rules, which currently limit development of the 200-plus acre ranch to six free-market homes.”My view is they failed to meet the standards for a rezoning,” said planning commissioner Joe Krabacher.Lowe W/J was asking for quite a bit from Krabacher and his colleagues. The application includes subdivisions in two separate areas of the ranch, rezoning the entire property, and exemption from the growth management review process, which is specifically designed to limit development.Both Krabacher and planning commissioner Peter Thomas did say there was quite a bit about the application that is attractive. But they struggled with the fact that the proposal was at odds with so many of the master plans that have been developed over the years.In proposing development outside the so-called urban growth boundary, distant from transit corridors and employment centers, the proposal is at odds with the Aspen Area Community Plan and the Citizen Housing Plan. The fact that it would substantially add to the number of homes in the Woody Creek area is a direct affront to the Woody Creek Caucus Master Plan and the Downvalley Comprehensive Plan, both of which caution against overdevelopment of the area.”I voted against it because it is in conflict with the master plans that are in effect,” Thomas said.He also said he had trouble with the fact that it would mean even more affordable housing in the Woody Creek neighborhood, which already is home to a considerable amount of deed-restricted affordable housing.”The location is not appropriate – we don’t want to create micro-communities of affordable housing throughout Woody Creek,” Thomas said.The P&Z’s recommendation leaves Lowe W/J with a difficult choice: either to proceed with the application and risk a similar reaction from the county commissioners, or withdraw the application and draw up new plans. If Lowe W/J moves forward with the current application and the commissioners reject it, the firm will not be allowed to submit a new development application for the W/J for six months.But Lowe W/J President Jim DeFrancia doesn’t see much risk in that. “Absolutely we’re going to take it to the county commissioners,” he said.DeFrancia said he’s particularly encouraged by the P&Z’s mostly positive response to the application itself.”It was a compelling presentation by the applicant,” Krabacher said. “Had they had the zoning, they might have gotten the green light.”DeFrancia said the P&Z’s objections relating to the citizen master plans were helpful, because they give him a topic on which to focus when the application goes before the county commissioners sometime in the next four to eight weeks.”We’re willing to make our case to the commissioners and see if they have a different interpretation,” DeFrancia said.

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