Major development proposed for New Castle’s Lakota Canyon area includes affordable housing units |

Major development proposed for New Castle’s Lakota Canyon area includes affordable housing units

Developer, New Castle officials and leaders slated to tour proposed site on Tuesday

The corner of Castle Valley Boulevard and Faas Ranch Road in New Castle on Wednesday morning.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

An ongoing proposal to morph a swath of land in east New Castle into a mixture of residential units and commercial properties is being revisited next week.

A site visit, that is.

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, New Castle staff and leaders are slated to meet with representatives of The Romero Group. The Basalt-based developer is now proposing to build 183 residential units and another 52,000 square feet of commercial real estate at Lakota Canyon Ranch. The site visit begins at the intersection of Castle Valley Boulevard and Faas Ranch Road.

The proposed units would include a mixture of townhomes, apartments, condominiums and single-family dwellings. Romero President and Chief Executive Officer Dwayne Romero told the Citizen Telegram on Tuesday that, despite New Castle not having any affordable housing regulations currently in place, 26 of the proposed 183 units will still be deed restricted.

“Twenty six units are dedicated to employees of the Garfield Re-2 School District, the Colorado River Fire District, the town of New Castle and its employees, Valley View Hospital and its employees and, finally, Habitat for Humanity,” Romero said.

Romero acknowledged that affordable housing is a “crisis” and “we need to be able to respond to that crisis.”

“Although the town of New Castle doesn’t specifically have affordable housing in its land use code, we came to the application initially volunteering that component,” he said. “So we started from ground zero.”

Commercially speaking, Romero said Valley View Hospital of Glenwood Springs is in the process of trying to incorporate a 12,000-15,000 square clinic with the property. This includes creating a family practice, a physical therapy unit and the possibility of partnering with a dermatology group.

There are also draft letters of interest for optometry and dentistry shops, while conversations to create a possible fitness center are also underway, Romero said.

“It’s a great opportunity to further round out the overall amenities of New Castle without trying to compete anywhere,” he said.

The Romero Group was created in 2016 and has about 80 members and four principals, including Romero himself. Its footprint includes majority ownership of the Snowmass Mall in Snowmass Village.

The real estate group and commercial investor acquired the 122-acre Lakota Canyon property — this includes the Lakota Canyon Golf Club — through a bankruptcy auction in 2020.

Former owner Warrior Acquisitions LLC filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy after failing to make a $500,000, semi-annual interest payment in 2019.

According to Romero, the land itself was appraised for about $3 million but the new owner nabbed the property for $1.5 million.

This acquisition has Lakota Canyon Ranch Homeowners Association President Mark McDonald, who also sits on the town’s planning and zoning commission, hoping new development will drive up the property value.

McDonald estimated on Tuesday that newly developed residential and commercial units at Lakota Canyon could potentially drive up the value of neighboring lots somewhere between $40,000-$50,000 apiece and thus help property owners recuperate losses incurred from the 2008 recession.

“They have a considerable number of units that they’re proposing, and it should be an overall positive for the Lakota community,” McDonald said.

But like any development proposal nowadays in Garfield County, Romero’s hasn’t gone without local consternation. Some local residents over the past two years have expressed concerns over ensuing traffic issues if Romero’s development materializes.

Specifically, the worry is over what could possibly happen traffic-wise at the intersection of Castle Valley Boulevard and Faas Ranch Road. McDonald, who has recused himself from negotiations with Romero due his involvement with the HOA, said traffic mitigation is stipulated in the development contract.

A new independent residential development in the Lakota Canyon area in New Castle on Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“We could see a stop light or traffic signals and traffic control devices,” he said of the intersection. He added that potentially building a traffic circle is not feasible due to the topography of the intersection. “That’s the biggest area of concern I can see.”

New Castle Town Administrator Dave Reynolds said Romero’s proposal joins two other projects that are either currently underway or still in negotiation processes.

Reynolds said there are about 23 single-family homes now in some stage of the building process. These are individual in-fill properties being developed in parts of Castle Valley Ranch, Lakota Canyon and other sections of town.

There’s another 135 multi-family homes that were proposed by a developer for the Castle Valley Ranch area. The prospective investor, however, eventually pulled out of the application process, and now New Castle is looking for a new investor to develop this area. 

If more developments like Romero’s continue to emerge, Reynolds said he hopes it can answer the valley’s call for more affordable housing.

“What I can tell you, across the board, is that staffing is a little bit of an issue, so this will put some pressure on it,” he said.

Romero is now in the final approval stage for the Lakota Canyon development. Once all contracts and permits are approved, 2024 would be the earliest start for construction, Romero said.

New Castle Town Council member Caitlin Carey said on Tuesday that Romero does pull through on creating a good chunk of affordable housing units for this development.

“I am encouraged by the conversations that we have had with Romero Group,” she said. “They are sensitive to the needs of our community and the larger, county-wide community.”

“Their reputation in the valley thus far has been a good one, and that gives me some comfort as we move forward and work with Romero.”

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