Garfield County Commissioners nix special districts in latest Cattle Creek development |

Garfield County Commissioners nix special districts in latest Cattle Creek development

John ColsonPost Independent staffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday rejected the latest plan to jump-start development of one of the lower Roaring Fork Valley’s most visible and troubled properties.Developers of the 240-acre parcel now known as River’s Edge, at the junction of Cattle Creek Road and State Highway 82, proposed the formation of three distinct special districts, two for residential development and one for commercial.The commissioners, however, followed the recommendation of the county’s planning and zoning commission, which had recommended denial because the application failed to comply with a state-mandated list of criteria for establishing such districts.Plus, county officials were uncomfortable with the idea of approving the special districts before reviewing the development proposal meant to be built within the district boundaries.The property in question has been subject of four different development plans since 2001, including Sanders Ranch, Bair Chase and most recently, Cattle Creek Crossing.That most recent development proposal came from the Related Westpac development group, which was also involved in the development of the Base Village complex in Snowmass Village until the project ran into financial trouble and went into foreclosure. The current development team for the parcel, known as Carbondale Investments LLC, was hoping to convince the Board of County Commissioners that creation of three special districts was needed in order to negotiate a total of five crossings of the Rio Grande Trail right of way that separates the project site from State Highway 82.The right of way, which once carried coal and iron ore trains up and down the valley, is now a trail from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and is controlled by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.The PUC, said attorney Diane Miller, “won’t even talk to a private entity.” But the state agency would deal with the districts, as taxing quasi-governmental authorities, she said.The districts, if formed, could levy taxes and oversee construction of the “infrastructure” needed for the development of up to 1,200 homes, a 150-room hotel and between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.But the sequence of things troubled at least two of the commissioners.”The way you’ve approached this is … in my mind … like coming in the back door,” said commissioner Trsi Houpt, meaning that the typical sequence of events is to get the development approved first and the districts either at the same time or later.Plus, she said, “It’s hard to argue with the planning commission statement, that this is all speculative” and loosely based on a development plan that the county has not seen.”It almost commits, through perception, the county to the development,” she said, arguing that with the districts in place, the county would feel pressured to give the go-ahead to the whole project.Miller and others representing the developers said they already had changed some of the provisions of their proposal to meet county demands, and were willing to make further changes, but planner Kathy Eastley pointed out that the P&Z’s review was based on the plans before the changes were made.Commissioner Mike Samson agreed that the proposal was premature, but Commissioner John Martin called it “interesting, and bordering on genius” as an “attempt to break a deadlock” represented by the need to get the right-of-way crossings.Martin noted that state law gives the commissioners the “discretion” to approve the districts without compliance with the state’s list of criteria, but both Houpt and Samson decided to follow the P&Z’s recommendations.Developer representative Rocky Shepard, following the commissioners’ decision, pledged that “we’ll keep moving forward with our development.”

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