Vail Valley: Homestead saying ‘yes in my backyard’
May 17, 2011
Homestead is saying “yes in my backyard” to a multi-million dollar open space plan in their neighborhood.
The county commissioners want to spend $3.25 million for 160 acres of open space that borders Homestead. About 40 of those acres are surrounded on three sides by Homestead, and residents have been using it for years.
“Everyone wants the status quo. Someone else pays the taxes and we trespass on it,” said Bobby Warner, who developed Homestead in the 1970s.
Now the commissioners want to buy it, and the board of directors of Homestead’s homeowners association seem inclined to let them, reasoning that if the commissioners are going to spend millions on open space, they might as well spend it in their backyard, board members said in a public meeting.
That bottom 40 acres, the land surrounded on three sides by Homestead, could easily be sold, split off and developed as infill, said board member Norm Green.
“One commissioner lives in Homestead and has made it clear he’s for it,” said Paul Backes, a Homestead board member. “The other two live in Eagle (Jon Stavney lives in Eagle; Sara Fisher lives in Gypsum; Peter Runyon lives in Homestead about 100 yards from the open space).
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“If they don’t spend it on this, they’ll spend it down there,” Backes said.
The meeting opened contentiously with Homestead residents taking dead aim at what they called a lack of transparency in negotiations between the Homestead board and the county commissioners.
Board members pointed out that real estate negotiations can be conducted in private under Colorado’s open meetings law. In fact, they went into a private meeting when Stavney arrived to negotiate on the county’s behalf.
Homestead owns 400 acres of dedicated open space and the commissioners originally wanted all of it under a conservation easement as part of the deal.
Homestead’s board countered with 120 acres and access to a U.S. Forest Service trail through an area that hikers and others have used for years.
That’s where the deal stood when the Homestead board called for the private meeting with Stavney.
“The county opposes spending the money if they don’t get access to the open space and the trail,” Backes said.
The county already has rights to provide public access as part of the subdivision agreement, and that was true long before Homestead, Warner said.
“Some of the commissioners have already alluded that they’d pull out [if Homestead balks at the deal],” said Bobby Ladd, with the Homestead board.
That doesn’t seem likely. As the public part of the meeting wound down and the mood had calmed, board members asked who in the room was in favor of the deal. No one opposed it.
“The county’s purchase of Scudder/Webster is one of the best things that can happen to Homestead,” said Homestead board member T.J. Johnson.
Homestead could sell its own open space. That would require a two-thirds vote of Homestead’s 850 property owners. To develop it would require approval by the county’s planning commission and then the commissioners.
“The board of county commissioners will change, this board will change. It only takes a couple crazies on any board to change things,” Warner said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.