Hunt Ranch neighbors not excited about prospect of large development next door |

Hunt Ranch neighbors not excited about prospect of large development next door

Given their druthers, some neighbors of the historic Hunt Ranch in Missouri Heights would prefer to see cows remain and houses stay away indefinitely.

Since that’s unlikely to happen, the neighbors are organizing to try to reduce the amount of development a group buying the 565-acre spread is seeking.

The neighbors formed the Missouri Heights Well Users Alliance to try to persuade Garfield County to limit development because of concerns about water depletion, increased traffic, increased light pollution and effects on wildlife, according to Becky Chase, one of the organizers. They have hired a land-use attorney and a water attorney to assist their cause.

Garfield County land-use regulations would allow development of up to 94 homes on the cattle ranch, something neighbors like Chase find appalling.

“We need to get these developers to understand that this is a big concern for people up here,” Chase said.

She said about 60 people attended the alliance’s first meeting to discuss Hunt Ranch. They hope to rally even more neighbors and approach Garfield County and the developer with a unified voice.

Greg Amsden, a Vail resident who heads the real estate investment group that has a contract to purchase Hunt Ranch, said he wants to meet with the neighbors to outline his plans and listen to their concerns. He said a letter was mailed Friday to invite 180 neighboring property owners to attend meetings Oct. 19 and 20.

“We’re encouraging people to come to these meetings to give us their input,” he said. When people don’t attend and give input, “That makes it tough on us.”

He said he hopes to work through issues with neighbors before his group submits a development plan to Garfield County for review. It’s probably impossible to please everyone, but he’s willing to bet that the majority of concerns can be eased.

Amsden said his group is studying the development of 84 to 90 home lots on three parts of the ranch. While that sounds like a lot, the houses will be clustered, and “low-impact” methods will preserve views. He stressed that preserving the cattle pastures at the center of the property remains a top goal.

Hunt Ranch is on Garfield County Road 102, about three miles from Catherine Store on Highway 82. The ranch was homesteaded near the turn of the 20th century. It still has an original ranch house, an old barn and potato cellars. Dick Hunt has owned it for 38 years.

Amsden’s group became interested earlier this year after seeking development property in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Chase said the alliance isn’t trying to interfere with the sale and understands the buyers are entitled to some development. But they wanted to get into the process early to voice concerns over the development potential. She said the alliance hasn’t set a range yet that would be more acceptable.

“I think we need to be more responsible than 94 homes, or even close to that,” said Chase, who lives in King’s Row. “Because the property is so large, we realized we had to rally against growth.

Her big concern is water. Missouri Heights depends on wells that tap an aquifer. Ranching traditionally has helped replenish that supply. Current residents fear that more residential development will threaten it.

“We realize the more straws that are dipped into it will deplete it over time,” Chase said. “Even if there is enough water now, we don’t know what it means if they allow them to build up the wazoo.”

The alliance is hosting another meeting later this month and would welcome any chance to talk to the developers, Chase said.

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