Commissioners should not approve Westbank settlement
At the end of Oak Lane in a secluded corner of the spacious Westbank subdivision, a gap cut in the oakbrush on a vacant Westbank lot leads to a new, one-lane gravel road.
The road runs north on what was the old Midland Railroad grade, hugging the steep hillside for a mile to connect with the upscale Prehm Ranch subdivision, now under development by Marlin Colorado Ltd.
The gap at Oak Lane is spanned by a shiny new chain. A metal “NO TRESPASSING” sign hangs from the chain. But for the chain, the road would provide ready vehicle access from the Prehm Ranch development to and through Westbank.
Marlin Colorado built the road last September to provide lot owners with a second route to Highway 82 via the Hardwick Bridge. It’s only slightly less circuitous than the legitimate access route via Prehm Road, Airport Road, Midland Avenue and the Sunlight Bridge.
Many Westbank homeowners are in a royal snit over this road. They simply do not want more car traffic past their homes, and fear the road opens the door to a throughway.
They also note that the Garfield County Commissioners specifically denied Marlin permission to build the road when the Prehm Ranch subdivision was approved in 2001.
Garfield County has sued Marlin over the road. Westbank homeowners joined in the suit, seeking a permanent closure.
But the legal beagles unearthed an ace for Marlin’s case: a 60-foot-wide county road right-of-way across the vacant Westbank lot.
Now, in a proposed settlement deal, Marlin has offered to vacate the right-of-way in exchange for a private, one-lane road easement. Marlin has also offered to convey the rest of the right-of-way strip to the Westbank homeowners as a dedicated greenbelt.
The deal would also cap traffic at 27 cars per day.
The matter is set before the Garfield County Commissioners for a hearing and decision on Monday.
The Westbank Homeowners’ Association has agreed to the offer, but some individual homeowners are now crying foul. They say they spent buckets of money on attorney fees and still end up with more traffic in their neighborhood.
Garfield County Planner Mark Bean has advised the County Commissioners to approve the settlement, but with conditions to thwart expansion of the access to anything more substantial than a one-lane back road.
Garfield County is trying to make the best of a bad situation. But Marlin deserves more than a slap on the hand for building the road without permission.
The message to Marlin and other developers is that the county may say no, but in the end it will accept a few concessions and let the incursion stand.
The Garfield County Commissioners must quit letting developers steamroll them.
The settlement should not be approved Monday. A different settlement should be crafted, or the matter may have to go to court.
While 27 cars a day are not really a big deal, Marlin’s road should be closed to all vehicular traffic except for emergency fire or flood access.
The developer should open the road to the public traveling by foot, horseback and bicycle, to create a safe and pleasant route from South Glenwood Springs through Prehm Ranch to the Westbank neighborhood.
Marlin should narrow the public right-of-way to 30 feet and dedicate the remaining strip as a greenbelt through the entire length of Prehm Ranch and into Westbank.
And Garfield County should make clear that it stands behind its word when it approves a new subdivision.
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