River Edge subdivision gets preliminary nod | AspenTimes.com

River Edge subdivision gets preliminary nod

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The approvals are not formal or final yet, but for all intents and purposes the county has given the nod to an unincorporated community of 366 homes almost exactly halfway between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners on Monday voted 2-1, Commissioner John Martin dissenting, to approve the River Edge Colorado planned unit development (PUD), which was proposed to be built over seven distinct phases lasting 20 years.

“I know this is a little more urban than what’s in between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, just before making the motion to approve the project.

But, he said, the 12-mile stretch of river valley between the towns is “pretty much being filled up,” and the project has access to Highway 82 and an existing water and wastewater system that can be expanded to serve the new homes.

The commissioners attached a long list of conditions to the approval, including one that cut in half the “vested rights” period for the project.

The developer, Carbondale Investments LLC, had requested 20 years of vested rights, meaning the period of time the developers have to get their project substantially under way.

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Jankovsky had proposed a 14-year vesting of development rights, noting that the longest term of vested rights in county history had been 15 years for the Spring Valley Ranch PUD.

He then told the project’s representative, Rockwood Shepard, “You can come back in front of us again, and ask for an increase.”

Jankovsky later agreed to accept Commissioner Mike Samson’s suggestion to cut the vested rights to 10 years.

The project calls for a phased development plan to build a mostly residential community of 366 homes, with a mix of housing types that is to include 55 affordable units.

The project site lies along the Roaring Fork River, at the confluence with Cattle Creek. Nearby are the Aspen Glen and Iron Bridge golf subdivisions, several mobile home parks and the Thunder River Market shopping complex at Highway 82 and County Road 114.

“We are building, not a second-home development, but a project for people who live and work in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Shepard.

According to an assessment cited by the application, the project will generate 114 jobs at the peak of construction.

The approval came after four hours of testimony at a public hearing. That included a presentation by Shepard and his development team, land-use planner Mark Sawyer and attorney Lori Baker, and public comments by a number of area residents.

“Building a town away from existing municipalities is never a prudent concept,” warned Dave Johnson of Glenwood Springs, explaining that there already are an uncounted number of approved lots awaiting development throughout the county.

Developer Mark Gould conceded that “we may not need it [the project’s housing stock] this minute,” because of the weak economy and high home-foreclosure rate.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t look to the future,” he added.

Citizen planner David Harris, who worked on the latest version of the county’s comprehensive land-use plan, told commissioners that the planning task force had many discussions about the various development schemes that have cropped up for this property.

“It all centered around the existence of a sewer pipe,” he said. “That’s not a good reason to put a subdivision there.”

He noted that in the decade since developers first proposed a project on this site, there has been strong public sentiment against the idea.

“It doesn’t fit,” he said. “It’s out in the middle of nowhere.”

Another participant in the county’s comprehensive planning process, Dave Sturges, noted that part of the developer’s plan is to dig a gravel pit in the middle of the project.

“How many gravel pits does it take to meet the needs of the community?” Sturges asked commissioners rhetorically.

Shepard, however, said the gravel pit and related processing activities will be strictly to meet the needs of River Edge and will not be sold or shipped anywhere.

The matter will be before commissioners again during the afternoon session of the board’s regular meeting, which starts at 1 p.m. Dec. 5.

jcolson@postindependent.com