Big Sky Ranch project faces another setback
BRECKENRIDGE ” Upper Blue planning commissioners have the same concerns they’ve always had with Danny Middleton’s Big Sky Ranch: too much density, visual impacts, building on steep slopes and ridgelines, mining contamination, water supplies, disturbance envelopes and potential home sizes.
“Density is the big issue, because density is driving all these other problems,” said commissioner George Gruber. “There are so many issues you still need to work on. There are answers out there. I think you need to take more time to work on these things.”
Middleton proposes to build 22 homes on 133 acres at the top of Gibson Hill in a development called Big Sky Ranch, formerly called Eureka Estates. The project has gone through an array of modifications, including a proposal to build single homes on each of the narrow mining strips and reconfiguring the lots and redesigning them into a planned unit development (PUD).
The Upper Blue Planning Commission continued the issue to its Feb. 24 meeting after more than four hours of presentations and discussion Tuesday night.
Only four commissioners ruled on the question. Rodney Allen recused himself because he is Middleton’s real estate agent. And county assistant attorney Dan Teodoru said it would be best if commissioners Robin Theobald and Jim Stover recuse themselves because they own property near the proposed project.
The remaining commissioners ” Gruber, Jim Just, Darci Hughes and Michele Kutchin ” still have the same problems with the project the commission has had from the beginning.
The issue of density is at the crux of the matter, because the area is zoned A-1, which allows one unit per 20 acres.
Middleton and an array of associates own 17 narrow mining parcels on the face of the hill, and maintain that they have the right to build one house on each parcel.
The county, however, prefers that he rezone the property to a PUD and reconfigure the lots into more useable lots.
Since the last meeting, Middleton has encouraged three other adjacent property owners to join his project. That adds two more homes ” to 22 ” but reduces the density from one unit per 4.5 acres to one unit per 6 acres. County planner Kristin Dean said the county would prefer the Middleton plan for 10 to 13 homes instead.
Other concerns include visual impacts from the valley below, ridgeline development, steep slopes, the potential size of homes, the impact of further tree removal for fire mitigation and the project’s consistency with the Joint Upper Blue and Countywide master plans.
Another major concern is the effect more wells and septic systems could have on the existing neighborhoods below.
The state engineer’s office said Middleton would have to obtain a water augmentation plan to provide water to his project. He plans to do this through the Vidler water company.
Most residents obtain their water from deep fissures in the rock below. And some residents have had problems recently with their wells.
Water analysts hired by the county, however, submitted a report saying there is plenty of water to supply the new neighborhood.
Nick Logan, who lives in Huron Heights, said he’s had to redrill his well twice, and is now down to 400 feet ” 120 feet off the valley floor.
“If there is water in the rocks there for everyone, it’s all well and good,” Logan said. “But the Upper Blue Planning Commission has a high level of responsibility to long-existing subdivisions to provide assurance there will be enough water under them.”
The high levels of lead and arsenic in the area also concerned the planning commission.
The Colorado Geological Survey said preliminary testing shows lead levels are above accepted contamination levels and the likelihood of acidic drainage is high.
A representative from Golder and Associates, however, said the contaminated sites could be mitigated using a combination of concrete and soil covers or removal. He also noted that lead and arsenic are not very soluble and thus less likely to be moved by water or air.
The commission also told Middleton that his proposed 10,000-square-foot building envelopes are far too large and could result in homes up to 30,000 square feet in size.
That would increase the amount of fire mitigation needed, which would make the homes even more visible from the valley floor ” another major bone of contention the commission has with the project, despite Middleton’s attempts to prove the homes won’t be visible from town.
“I have problems with all the obstacles with this,” Kutchin said. “The site visit convinced me that all the development is highly visible. I cannot support what’s been proposed tonight.”
The majority of the more than 100 people in attendance spoke out against the project, too.
“All the members of the town council are here tonight,” Mayor Ernie Blake said. “That’s an indication of how strongly the town feels about this project. There’s too much density on this project. You have strong opposition from our town.”
The town doesn’t get an official say in the matter because the project lies in unincorporated Summit County.
But the county is taking its comments into consideration because of the potential impacts the project could have on the town.
“This project will be painfully visible because of the excessive nature of the disturbance,” town council member Larry Crispell said. “The 10,000-square-foot building envelope, you add fire mitigation, driveways, septic; you’re removing a lot of trees.”
“This is not clustered development; this is suburban development ” this is ridgeline development discouraged by the Joint Upper Blue Master Plan, ” town planner Laurie Best said. “I believe a PUD is the best way to go, but I don’t think this is the solution. This is far from it.”
“If these lots are developed, it will destroy this whole hill,” resident Steve Hunter said. “Please don’t destroy my neighborhood.”
The commission will address the project at its Feb. 24 meeting.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at email@example.com.
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