Developer wants locals housing on Smith Ranch
August 6, 2006
SILVERTHORNE – Nearly four years after plans for a locals-oriented housing development on Smith Ranch disintegrated, the idea is making its way back to the forefront in Silverthorne.Developer Tim Crane, of Compass Homes Development, hopes to build about 160 single family homes and duplexes – priced for locals – on 50 acres behind the new Kum and Go gas station off Highway 9 near Ruby Ranch Road.But, Ruby Ranch resident John Longhill also has his eyes on the land, and said he has been talking to the ranch’s owner Tom Garvin for a couple years about buying the property for a therapeutic equestrian facility.”There’s not a lot of open space left in Silverthorne, it’s such an important view corridor,” Longhill said. “There are four or five ecosystems we’d be able to preserve.”Crane questions whether that’s the best use of the land. Smith Ranch is bordered by the Willowbrook Neighborhood, the high-end homes in Ruby Ranch and a vacant strip of land zoned for a grocery store that the town is actively seeking to fill, and Crane believes it’s an ideal location to put a dent in the county’s affordable housing need.”Maybe this is the more appropriate place to be developing than (for) meaningful open space,” Crane said. While Longhill said he hopes to have enough money to make Garvin an offer comparable to Crane’s in two to three months, Crane has already signed a purchase agreement with Garvin’s Seminole Land Holdings to take ownership of Smith Ranch.But Crane faces a long road ahead.
Right now, the land is zoned for agricultural use in unincorporated Summit County, so to get the density required to support his project Crane needs Silverthorne to annex the land.Garvin has filed a petition for annexation – with the understanding that Crane would handle all negotiations – which the Silverthorne Town Council tabled on July 26 for six months to allow the land use process to proceed.”What the council message was, was affordable housing would be welcome however, there’s a lot of planning that needs to be done before now and any approvals,” town manager Kevin Batchelder said. “We really have to see the details.”Even then, the annexation process can be lengthy. The town recently spent 16 months negotiating the annexation of South Maryland Creek Ranch.”They’re long, complicated, difficult land use deals,” Batchelder said, adding that the town would have ensure that any annexation would benefit the community.Because his ideas are so preliminary, Crane isn’t sure how much the homes would cost or what kind of regulations would be attached, other than requiring that home buyers work in the county at least 30 hours a week.He cited developer David O’Neil’s successful Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge as a potential model, where everyday employees like firefighters, town employees and nurses all live in the same community.”I think that’s a good thing up here,” Crane said.
To make the project financially feasible for him, Crane is also looking at the possibility of bringing in a partner, and has had discussions with Copper Mountain to help fill a need for affordable housing for resort employees.”We are talking to them, but that’s the extent of it, there’s no deal as of yet,” Crane said.Crane said he intends work diligently with the town on an agreement that’s mutually beneficial in order to move his project forward.If there is a snag, however, and Crane cannot proceed, Longhill will likely be waiting in the wings for a chance to snatch up the Smith Ranch.He wants to move his Georgia-based equestrian facility, which is up for sale, to Summit County. Longhill’s program uses previously abused and neglected animals as educational and therapeutic tools for youth. He also runs camps and facilitates corporate communication and team building programs.Longhill would keep the land mostly meadow, as it is now, and would not apply for annexation into Silverthorne.”We would provide a huge community service to the county of Summit and also the town of Silverthorne; there’s been a lot of support for it,” Longhill said.Crane is also developing 241 homes on Angler Mountain Ranch, formerly known as Clark Ranch, across Highway 9 from the Smith Ranch.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at email@example.com.
What’s Next?Developer Tim Crane will hold a community meeting in the next four to six weeks to answer questions and hear opinions about his plans.Smith Ranch pastThe Smith Ranch was the center of controversy in Silverthorne three years ago, when residents voted whether 11 acres of the ranch should be rezoned to allow for a Safeway. The rezoning passed by just nine votes, but Safeway never broke ground on the project. The Safeway was originally supposed to be part of an overall Silver Mountain Village project, which proposed to bring 180 units of market and affordable housing, a daycare and an elementary school site to Smith Ranch. The council nixed the annexation proceedings for Silver Mountain Village in December 2002 and Safeway opted to move forward by itself, ultimately ending up as the subject of the vote a year later. Attracting a grocery store to Silverthorne continues to be a top priority for the town council, which has identified the Smith Ranch as the preferred spot for a store.