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Golf community within chipping range of approval

Lakota Canyon Ranch developers are one step closer to seeing their New Castle residential golf course community become reality.At an epic, five-hour public hearing Wednesday night, New Castle Planning and Zoning Commission members voted 4-2 in favor of recommending town council’s conditional approval of the master plan, which includes the development’s general layout.The commission also approved a PUD development plan for the 253-unit phase one of the project, which details its density and layout. Planning commission members Brenda Kerr and Greg Russi cast the two dissenting votes. Lakota Canyon Ranch is a 487-acre development adjacent to New Castle’s Castle Valley Ranch. The project includes four phases and an 18-hole golf course.With the planning commission approval in hand, the developers now go before New Castle Town Council on Oct. 29 for final approval for phase one. The developers must still win density and layout approvals for each phase of the project, and for the 18-hole golf course. Doing the homeworkWhen developers for Lakota Canyon Ranch, LLC, met with planning commission members five weeks ago, they left with a long list of concerns from commission and community members.Key issues were educational impacts, water availability, wildlife mitigation and traffic management. At Wednesday’s meeting, it was clear that Lakota Ranch representatives, town staff and school district administrators pooled resources to resolve the issues. A new school siteWednesday night, Lakota Canyon Ranch attorney David Myler introduced Garfield School District Re-2 superintendent Gary Pack and school board president Vicki VanEngelenburg to the commission to explain how the two entities worked together to help solve New Castle’s growing educational needs. At the September planning commission meeting, Pack expressed concern that Lakota Canyon didn’t providing and adequate school site. At that time, Myler contended that the developers were not required to provide dedicated school land.He argued they met a New Castle town ordinance requiring developers to dedicate 10 percent of the land to schools, parks or recreation uses by opening the proposed golf course to New Castle residents.Developers also agreed to expand a portion of New Castle’s existing cemetery and provide public park space. Since then, Myler, Pack and VanEngelenburg have worked out an arrangement. “After discussions with the school district, we saw a need for school sites,” Myler said. “So on a voluntary basis, we have drawn up a letter of intent to the school district to donate 5.8 acres for a future school site along Castle Valley Boulevard.Lakota Ranch developers have promised to deed the land to the district no later than July 1, 2003. “We’re not doing this because we’re required to do it. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” Myler said.Pack asked New Castle officials to donate an adjoining 6.1 acres, currently dedicated for a town park, to the school so the parcel would be large enough to house a future school. New Castle town administrator Steve Rippy said the town would work with the school district to create a school site and a potential town recreation area.Planning commission member Greg Russi complimented Lakota Canyon representatives and school district administrators for their collaborative efforts.”I want to congratulate Lakota Canyon Ranch and the school district for the great work they’ve done together,” Russi said. “I’m very impressed.”Where’s the water?New Castle residents attending the hearing expressed their gravest concerns about water – or lack thereof. Currently, New Castle receives its water from East Elk Creek. Rippy said in a normal year, the town has enough water for Castle Valley Ranch, historic downtown, the proposed Lakota Canyon Ranch and more. But with two low-precipitation years followed by this year’s drought, the town plans to call for the water it holds in Ruedi Reservoir. Again, Lakota Canyon Ranch is working in partnership, this time with the town of New Castle. “The town has been looking at building a pump station on the Colorado River,” Rippy said. “When the town requests the release of our Ruedi water, we can pull water from the Colorado.”Under an agreement with the town, Lakota Canyon Ranch is prepared to pay for 63 percent of the cost of the new pump station. “We’re working on details of the agreement,” said Rippy. Kentucky Blue for everyoneSeveral citizens voiced their concerns over how the development will affect wildlife.District wildlife manager Brian Gray of the Colorado Division of Wildlife has been working with Lakota Canyon Ranch developers to deal with habitat changes from the new golf course community.”If this wasn’t going to happen, that would be great,” he said of the development. “But it is going to happen. So we have to manage the affected wildlife as best we can.”Gray explained how planned conservation easements on the periphery of the development will provide corridors for elk and deer migration. And Gray generated a chuckle from planning commission and audience members when he pointed out the benefits of providing golf course greens to local game.”That Kentucky Blue is going to feed a lot of elk and deer,” he said of the 200 acre-golf course planned for the area.


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