Only an iota of resistance to Lakota Canyon Ranch
With only one dissenting vote from Councilman Greg Russi, the New Castle Town Council approved the proposed Lakota Canyon Ranch development on first reading.The proposed 487-acre residential subdivision is northeast of town and, at buildout, will bring 827 residential units and an 18-hole golf course to New Castle. Russi, also a member of the New Castle planning and zoning commission, voted against the development at both the planning and zoning and town council levels. The town council took several specific actions in support of the project. It annexed 177 acres of Lakota property which were outside the town’s boundaries. It also approved Phase 1 of Lakota’s first filing, which includes 253 residential units, as well as the final plat for Phase 1A, which includes 60 of those lots. According to town clerk Lisa Cain, New Castle town staffers are providing citizens with a two-week period to look over Lakota Canyon Ranch plans before the council takes a second reading vote to move forward with the project. “This allows citizens to voice their opinions and objections, if any, before the council takes a final vote,” she said. Water is No. 1 – as alwaysAs has been the case with previous public hearings on Lakota Canyon Ranch, the No. 1 concern Tuesday night centered on water availability, water rights and storage.Steve Craven and Eric Williams, business partners and developers of the adjacent Castle Valley Ranch, raised the most concerns over water issues. Cain said Castle Valley currently contains over 500 homes, and has a maximum buildout of 1,400 residential units. Craven took the podium and addressed the council, telling them he was worried about meeting Castle Valley’s water needs. He questioned when new water storage tanks would be built, the capacity of the town’s water treatment plant, the timeline for building a new pump station on the Colorado River, water rights availability, and why he had not received a written agreement regarding water rights and usage.He said the water problem “is very solvable, but it needs to be addressed. I need a breakdown of how that water is allocated and how it is to be stored. I don’t want to end up short because of an oversight.”Mayor Bill Wentzel said it’s not unusual to not have written agreements at a first reading. Special town attorney David McConaughy said he was aware of Craven’s concerns and is waiting for information from Lakota’s engineer before drawing up final documents.Tom Laidlaw, a New Castle landowner with water rights on East Elk Creek, wanted to know the town’s plan for providing water in the future.Wentzel admitted the town has a finite amount of water it can take out of East Elk Creek.”Any future rights we’ll acquire if they become available,” he said. A public course?Craven also questioned the public nature of Lakota Canyon’s “privately-owned public golf course.” The course’s public status is a result of Lakota Canyon developers fulfilling the town’s 10 percent open space requirement for new developments. “I need clarifications,” he said. “Does this mean the course is public to the world? Do you have to be a resident of New Castle?”David Myler, attorney for Lakota Canyon Ranch, said the course will be open, in perpetuity, to the general public. For the next four years, the daily rates for New Castle residents will be $58 with a cart. After that time, a fee, 10 percent below the average of fees at seven regional public golf courses, will be charged to New Castle residents.”We’re also developing a junior golf program,” Myler said. “We’ll have additional discounts for those participants, with two to three free clinics each year.” And, in addition to the golf course, Myler reiterated Lakota’s decision to donate 5.8 acres of land to Garfield School District Re-2 for a future school site. Last stageDuring the five-hour meeting, Myler introduced Lakota Canyon’s key players. These included “major owners” Jim Columbo and John Elmore, wildfire mitigation consultant Jim Mason, a former Glenwood Springs fire chief, and Scott Balcomb, a water rights attorney.Myler acknowledged the efforts of town staff and Lakota’s representatives to bring Lakota Canyon to the final stages of approval. “At this point, we’re at the stage of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” he said. “When the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend the project, there weren’t a lot of conditions. The P&Z didn’t require us to make any significant changes, which I think speaks to our thoroughness.”Once the public has had time to address Lakota Canyon Ranch’s application, Town Council will hold a second reading and a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, before taking a final vote, Cain said.
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