River Edge advances in Garfield County | AspenTimes.com

River Edge advances in Garfield County

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Contributed imageThis site plan illustrates the proposed River Edge development at Cattle Creek, between Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork River. Carbondale Investments LLC proposes to take 160 acres of the larger 280-acre ranch to develop a 366-unit project.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – It’s on to the Garfield Board of County Commissioners for the proposed 366-unit River Edge residential development at Cattle Creek.

The Garfield County Planning Commission voted 6-1 Wednesday night recommending approval of the latest plan to develop a portion of the former Sanders Ranch property between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

Carbondale Investments LLC proposes to take 160 acres of the larger 280-acre ranch to create a mix of single- and multi-family residential units. The ranch straddles Cattle Creek between State Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork River.

The development would include no more than 30,000 square feet of commercial space. That area could also include a community hall to serve the neighborhood, said the developer’s representative, Rockwood Shepard, at the Wednesday meeting.

He pointed to studies showing a need for up to 1,000 new homes per year through 2035 in order to keep up with population growth projections in Garfield County.

“That is hard to even say right now,” Shepard admitted, given the downturn in the area real estate market over the past three years.

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As the economy improves, he said that demand will be realized again.

“We believe the project meets the criteria for approval,” Shepard said.

The project would not be developed immediately, however.

Developers have requested, and the planning commission agreed in its recommendation, to allow the preliminary plan to remain valid for three years before the next stage of development approvals are sought. The county usually only allows one year.

Project planner Mark Sawyer said pre-development work would be done in the meantime, primarily to reclaim the weed-infested areas that were disturbed before the previous developers went belly up.

“We do plan to post security for that work to be completed,” Sawyer said. “That security wasn’t there before, which is why it looks like it does today.”

The Cattle Creek property has been the subject of several different development plans dating back to the mid-1990s. Developers of the former Bair Chase and Cattle Creek Colorado proposals went bankrupt, and the property ended up on the auction block.

Planning commissioners said the new development plan is the best one yet.

“In putting together the new comp (comprehensive) plan, this is what we envisioned for this site,” Commission Chairman Phil Vaughan said.

Added planning commissioner Bob Fullerton, “It’s not the perfect development … but I believe you’ve tried your darndest to listen to our input on this.

“Times are tough now,” he added. “But I don’t think they are going to stay like that.”

Commissioners Adolfo Gorra, Cheryl Chandler, Jock Jacober and Sean Martin joined Fullerton and Vaughn in recommending approval. Planning commissioner Michael Sullivan was opposed.

“I can’t get it out of my mind that this is exactly what we don’t want to happen there,” Sullivan said. “It’s the kind of sprawl that will be detrimental to this valley.”

Several residents in the area of Cattle Creek and the CMC intersection on Highway 82 agreed with that assessment. They also said not knowing what type of development might happen on the remaining 100 acres, situated between the Rio Grande Trail and Highway 82, is cause of concern.

“You’re talking about a new town here, not just a subdivision,” Rick Neiley said. “They have yet to disclose what the overall play is for the balance of the property.

“You can’t look at part of it without knowing what the overall plan is,” he added.

Neighboring resident David McConaughy said the rest of the site could double the number of residential units in the area.

“Make no mistake, this proposal is just phase one of a much bigger project,” he said.

Roaring Fork Conservancy Executive Director Rick Lofaro spoke to the potential impact from the development on the conservation easement that the previous owners agreed to have placed along the Roaring Fork River.

“You run a real risk of loving the conservation easement to death if a development of this size is approved,” Lofaro said.

The recommendation now goes to the Board of County Commissioners, which will have the final say on the development proposal. Senior county planner Kathy Eastley said that hearing will likely take place in early November.

Documents and details of the River Edge proposal are available on the Garfield County website, http://www.garfield-county.com.

jstroud@postindependent.com