High-density Blue River development not a good fit for community
The town of Blue River’s mud season consideration of the annexation of the Ruby Placer and the associated residential development is causing an uproar in the Upper Blue River Valley. The 68-unit development will spread existing six-units-per-acre densities, currently allocated to about 5 acres, to 18.5 acres. Surrounding neighbors in Blue River and unincorporated Summit County are upset about negative impacts to their neighborhoods associated with such high-density development.
At the town’s public hearings, the developer’s attorney has been pitching the benefits of the 48-acre annexation and rezoning, which includes a projection of $109,000 per year in revenue, a new town center with commercial development, a new town hall and a new community center all supported by a variety of taxes and construction fees.
There are many objectionable issues associated with this project: precedent-setting high-density residential development, questionable entitled densities, water, lots of taxes, negative impacts on the surrounding community, development that is significantly out of character with surrounding neighborhoods, disregard for the Upper Blue Master Plan regarding recommended densities and local citizens who are against creating a small city in the Upper Blue River Valley. The project has been criticized by Summit County, the town of Breckenridge and local folks.
The proposal circumvents the use of transferrable development rights, recent state legislation that ended the practice of imposing property transfer fees and the land use advisory documents that have established the guiding principles for residential and commercial development in the Upper Blue River Valley for the last decade, or longer. The town of Blue River needs to show more respect for its neighbors and important regional planning and land use documents.
The developer’s attorney is pitching the development as a take-it-or-leave-it proposal associated with a multitude of benefits for the town. The mayor is impatient for tax revenues. However, if it were a good plan there would be more support from Summit County, the town of Breckenridge, less opposition from citizens, more respect for densities recommended by regional planning documents and less division among the town’s board of trustees. As is, the proposal should go back to the drawing board where a development plan that would be supported by the greater community can be developed. The town of Blue River would be wise to reject the proposal and solve its financial issues in a different way.
If approval of the annexation and zoning is inevitable, the approval should be conditioned for a minimum 50 percent reduction in density. The developer and the town should work together on a project that would have more widespread support, and a density reduction would go a long way toward achieving that goal.