Garfield County takes pains to avoid killing housing project
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County’s elected leaders are bending over backwards to avoid shutting down a planned housing development in the Battlement Mesa area, even though the developers missed a crucial deadline to keep their approvals active.Though the commissioners tried to find a way to grant a development extension for the Valley View Commons project, the best they could do was delay any final decision while county staff researches the issue.”We’re between a rock and a hard place,” noted County Commissioner Mike Samson, explaining that none of the commissioners wanted to cancel approvals for the project, but that they might not have any choice.The developers of the Valley View Commons project, 56 townhouse units planned for a 7.9-acre site within the Battlement Mesa PUD, were asking for a two-year extension of their preliminary plat approval, which originally was granted in 2008.That approval was followed by a series of extensions and negotiations with county staff members concerning weed management and other issues required under the approval.The project at one time was sold to a new developer and then returned to the original owner, Darter Land & Community Development, LLC, explained company manager Darin Carei at a hearing before the BOCC on Monday.The preliminary plat approval expired on Nov. 19, 2010, according to county planner Glenn Hartmann, and there were no applications for extension of the approval until now.A letter from Carei to the BOCC, dated July 15, 2011, noted, “At present we are actively pursuing financing options” to move forward with the development, and asked for a two-year extension of the approvals for that purpose.But county attorney Andrew Gorgey advised the BOCC that the county code states that application for extensions must come to the county before approvals lapse.”I just really think we don’t have any choice but to follow the code,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky.”They messed up,” concurred Samson. “They missed the deadline.” He favored finding some way to “extend mercy” and not formally pull the approval.Samson made a motion to grant the extension until November of 2012, but noted, “I don’t want to set a precedent, I don’t want to say that’s what’s going to happen every time.”Gorgey, however, advised the BOCC, “The danger is, whatever standard you apply today … becomes the standard for anybody else who is similarly situated.”Gorgey said the BOCC could call for an emergency amendment to the county codes to make it possible to grant an extension under these circumstances, and Samson withdrew his motion.Carei, clearly unhappy with the turn things had taken, told the board, “Had I been told this, I guess I wouldn’t have made the run all the way up here” from the company’s office in Grand Junction.He said he had believed Garfield County officials understood that the current economic slump made things tough for developers, and noted, “For us to develop that site right now is foolishness, at best.”At that point Commissioner John Martin chimed in, “We may be able to revisit it. Don’t give up all hope.”At Martin’s suggestion, the matter was placed “on hold” while the staff works on an emergency amendment to the county codes, to see if there is a solution that can be firstname.lastname@example.org
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