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Eagle Ranch flap may end up in court

by Scott N. Miller/Special to the Daily

In the end, no one went home happy.

After more than two hours of public input on the latest final plat application for Eagle Ranch, the developers left grumbling, and a group of neighbors talked about seeking an injunction that could conceivably shut down work on the entire project.

At issue is Eagle Ranch’s latest development application for a 65-acre parcel known as Tract O. That parcel, at the southeast end of Eagle Ranch as it stretches upstream along Brush Creek, has faced stiff opposition from adjacent landowners since the first final plat proposal came in earlier this year.

The development guide approved by the town in 1999 for Eagle Ranch called for 32 home sites on Tract O. Responding to the Eagle Town Board’s concerns about more diversity in lot sizes in the project, developers several months ago submitted a final plat proposal for 65 units on the site.

Neighbors across Brush Creek from the tract objected to the increased density, and forced the application back through the town process because the hearing for the original application was not properly advertised.

Work proceeded on a less-dense application, and a team from Eagle Ranch last week brought the town board an application for the tract that included 44 home sites. That application brought with it a recommendation for approval from town staff, but a conditional approval from the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission asking for no more than the originally-envisioned 32 units.

According to Eagle Ranch’s agreement with the town, tracts within the 1,000-plus acre subdivision can have their originally-envisioned density increased by up to 50 percent, pending the final approval of the town board. That provision was included to give the developers flexibility to adjust lot sizes according to market and other conditions. The increase planned for Tract O was triggered when Eagle Ranch agreed to allow a medical center to be built seeking to move approved density to other areas of the property. The medical center will be built on a parcel about a third of a mile up Sylvan Lake Road from U.S. Highway 6. The developers are seeking to compensate for the subsequent lost density.

While the developers are allowed to move density within the ranch, they can’t exceed the roughly 1,100 units originally approved in 1999.

Citing concerns about traffic impacts, the possible impacts on wildlife and the need for a buffer between established rural uses and more urban uses, neighbors of the parcel supported the planning board’s recommendation, urging the town board to keep the density down.

Eagle Ranch planner Rick Pylman argued that the proposal for the tract is consistent with current uses and planning practices in the massive subdivision.

Brush Creek resident Brad Helm said the density envisioned for Tract O would be more appropriate closer to town. “It’s not logical to put this density into a small area like this,” said Helm, urging the developers to move units planned for the tract to other areas.

Max Quenon, whose home is across the creek from Tract O, generally praised the work done at Eagle Ranch so far, but urged general manager Gary Martinez and his team to put the added density proposed for the parcel elsewhere.

“There are plenty of suitable places that don’t create a conflict with the neighbors,” Quenon said.

Martinez and Pylman disputed that assertion. Showing board members a map of the entire project, they said it’s going to be difficult to put all of the project’s approved density in the remaining un-platted parcels.

Town board members were split in their reaction to the dispute between the developers and the neighbors. While no decisions were made, board members were pressed to indicate what level of density they’d accept on the parcel.

Board members Bruce Hasbrouck, Paul Witt and Tom Ehrenberg all argued for density on the parcel of somewhere between 38 and 40 units. Mayor Roxie Deane and board members Jon Stavney and Stephen Richards said they could accept the density as proposed, with some adjustments to lots.

With a vote anticipated at the Oct. 14 meeting, Town Manager Willy Powell said he’d like firmer direction from the board before drawing up a proposed ordinance that would lock in the density. He didn’t get it.

Witt asked if four units along the creek could be dropped, thereby creating less immediate impacts to the neighbors. Martinez had no immediate answer, noting that the density approved by the town had to make sense for the developers. He said taking units out of the plan increases costs to buyers.

Faced with the prospect of re-drawing a plan that still might meet rejection, Martinez, Pylman and the rest of the Eagle Ranch team left quickly following the hearing. Neighbors, meanwhile, weren’t happy with the prospect of just a few less units across the creek.

“I’m ready to move on an injunction on the whole PUD guide,” said lawyer and Brush Creek resident Arlene Quenon, indicating she will poll her neighbors. Quenon said the entire 1999 annexation process wasn’t properly advertised to adjacent landowners.

“We can shut the whole thing down if we do that,” she said.

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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