W/J owners want 153 units on ranch | AspenTimes.com

W/J owners want 153 units on ranch

Jeremy Heiman

In a development application submitted Friday, the W/J Ranch could be the site of 141 affordable units and 12 free-market homes.

The ranch owners, Lowe W/J, submitted the plan to Pitkin County’s Community Development Department. Lance Clarke, deputy director of planning for the county, said he hasn’t had a chance to look at the plan yet. The county has 30 days to examine the application and assure Lowe that it’s complete before it enters the county’s land-use approval process.

Lowe W/J, a subsidiary of Lowe Enterprises, an international development company, bought the ranch for about $20 million last December from developer John Musick and his creditors. The ranch is located in the Woody Creek area.

Jim DeFrancia, president of Lowe Community Development, another Lowe subsidiary, said if the proposal is approved, Lowe would likely either create a joint venture partnership with a developer or sell the lots. Lowe ordinarily does not build structures, but instead creates development plans and builds infrastructure such as streets and utilities.

DeFrancia said the plan calls for 111 affordable housing units on the north side of McLain Flats Road, across from the existing affordable housing on Stevens Place. Another 30 affordable units would be placed on the upper bench of the ranch, near an existing barn.

The affordable housing would be a mix of 42 resident-occupied, free-standing, single-family houses, 83 category 4 free-standing single-family houses and 16 townhouses.

The free-market houses would be placed along McLain Flats Road, with six on either side of the road. Lot sizes would range from seven to 10 acres each.

“You end up preserving the character of that area,” DeFrancia said.

The free-market lots would be sold with building envelopes that would restrict the placement of the houses and agricultural easements protecting the remainder of each lot from further development. DeFrancia said the company would not seek exemptions from Pitkin County’s house size limit of 5,750 square feet. Lot buyers would take care of design and construction of the houses.

The proposed development would leave 81 percent of the 210-acre ranch as open space, DeFrancia said.

“I would characterize that as an overall low density,” he said.

The development calls for 92 percent affordable housing, and no commercial development is proposed for the ranch.

The Lowe project, as DeFrancia has promised in the past, doesn’t approach the size of the proposal former owner Musick took to county officials for approval. That plan called for construction of 778 dwelling units, representing a development about the size of Snowmass Village. The county denied Musick’s application.

The Pitkin County Commissioners voted to rezone 112 acres at the ranch from AH, a district that would allow high-density affordable housing, to RS-20, which would allow only five houses on the land. It’s unclear whether the land would have to be rezoned to accommodate Lowe’s proposal.

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