Romero Group hosts open house for proposed Lakota Canyon mixed use development
A plan to develop nearly 200 residential units and commercial space on Lakota Ridge in New Castle faced public scrutiny for the first time in an open house last week.
Basalt-based Romero Group, Connect One Design, the Lakota Canyon Ranch Homeowners Association and local officials received input, questions and concerns from the public about plans for 196 residential units and nearly 76,000 square feet of total interior commercial space across the development.
The current renderings include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and apartment complexes as high as three stories in the roughly 17 acres between the Lakota Links golf course and Castle Valley Boulevard.
Romero Group CEO Dwayne Romero said many of the units would be dedicated to affordability, including deed restrictions on some single-family dwellings.
As housing costs continue to increase throughout Garfield County, the residents of New Castle are being asked to weigh density and development against the need to provide affordable housing options for critical workers.
“I have young children, so I would like to see teachers have the ability to stay in town,” New Castle business owner Kevin Hansen, who doesn’t live in Lakota Canyon, said at Thursday’s meeting at the Lakota Lookout Bar and Grill.
Hansen did not feel qualified to comment on the specific concerns of developing new residences but felt it critical to find ways to create more affordable housing opportunities for workers like teachers.
Romero declined to put specific numbers on pricing, saying it would be premature to do so.
Printed renderings stood on boards at tables and a Q&A gave the public — mostly locals and Lakota Canyon Homeowners Association members — a face-to-face meeting with Romero and other project coordinators.
Questions ranged from increased density and traffic, light pollution and utilities to obstructed views and more. The residential area’s main exit is expected to connect to Faas Ranch Road, prompting questions about street parking and excessive traffic congestion.
Representatives from the town, including Mayor Art Riddile, said discussions about a traffic circle or light at the intersection of Faas Ranch and Castle Valley could be a possibility to help manage an issue locals say already exists and would be exacerbated by the proposed development.
“It’s already hard to get out in the mornings,” said Faas Ranch resident Amy Warwick. “You have the morning traffic coming down. It’s hard to turn left to even get my kids to school, so it’s definitely a factor.”
The proposal includes spaces for retail, service and recreation space. Some of its structures would be shared commercial and residential space — first-floor businesses and higher-floor apartments. It also includes a plan for 40% gross open space.
The proposal would require town approval for exemptions on development codes for maximum residential density — the proposal is currently at 12.58 units per acre, while the max is 12 — and building height. Connect One’s Heather Henry said they’re proposing three-story, 42-foot tall apartment buildings — 7 feet higher than allowed by code — to ensure the residences maintain the local New Castle aesthetic.
Some Homeowners Association members said these tall buildings would obstruct their views and violate the HOA code, which Romero said the development would be a part of.
Homeowners Association President Mark McDonald, however, said the plans for the residential portion of the development have helped to increase stagnant property values, and the commitment to a conversation with the community on the project has felt earnest.
“This is one of the best developers I’ve seen, and they seem to be very sincere,” McDonald said. “The HOA is going to be able to control the design review of this, and we’re going to have our guidelines in place all through it. … We’re pretty positive about it.”
The plans have yet to go through the review process and Romero called the open house “a beginning of a series of conversations.” He said the entire build out process could take at least eight years.
“This is not a get-rich-quick, not a shake-and-bake,” Romero said. “This is going to take some amount of years.”
The Romero Group acquired the land in August 2020 from the bankrupt Warrior Acquisitions LLC.
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In the time Dwayne Romero and Susan Marolt have served on the Aspen School District Board of Education, the two outgoing board members say they’ve seen a philosophical shift in the way the district operates.