Breckenridge-area housing project Trails at Berlin Placer takes 2 steps forward, 1 back | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge-area housing project Trails at Berlin Placer takes 2 steps forward, 1 back

A possible mixed market-rate and workforce-housing development near Breckenridge realized a key milestone with the county on Monday, but a pending lawsuit filed by a neighbor of the proposed site threatens to derail the entire project.

The Trails at Berlin Placer at the intersection of Sallie Barber and Baldy roads continued to move through rezoning requirements with the Board of County Commissioners when the three-member panel gave conditional approval to shift the 23.4-acre land parcel listed for agriculture and limited housing to a residential designation for 36 units. Final permission from the board is still necessary at a future public hearing likely to be set for the fall before the developer could then obtain a building permit and future site-plan approval.

Meanwhile, following another incremental county endorsement last month related to the transfer of development rights to the property, the adjacent landowner to the intended project, Daniel Moore, filed suit against Summit County and builder Berlin Placer Development, LLC. Moore and his attorneys at Denver-based Foster Graham Milstein & Calisher seek a reversal of that approval in Summit County District Court alleging the county overextended its authority and that he will be adversely impacted by the project. A favorable judgment would ax the housing development altogether.

The housing project, more than a year in the works, imagines 14 single-family homes, along with 20 for-sale workforce-units across 10 duplex-style townhomes. The property would also include another unit for a future property manager, as well as a space left vacant for a home to be built by Habitat for Humanity.

The custom-built homes are planned with four-to-five bedrooms and an equivalent number of bathrooms within, more or less, 4,300 square feet. The workforce units, to be built immediately after infrastructure is finished, would average 100 percent of the area median income (some as low as 80 AMI, others as high as 120 AMI) with three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths within 2,200 square feet, and each includes a two-car garage.

As part of the deal to allow the market-rate homes, the builder is offering additional perks, including working with Summit Stage to move the Rock Ridge bus stop 450 feet west and construct a shelter, each as a benefit to safety. Some otherwise unbuildable land within the parcel, about 5 acres, will be granted to the county for open space purposes, too.

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In a related contribution, the development group will make enhancements to the three nearby hiking, mountain biking and other non-motorized use trails, Sallie Barber, Barney Ford and an existing social trail to be named Berlin Placer. A trailhead parking lot for 20 vehicles, including maintenance and plowing, at the intersection of Sallie Barber and Barney Ford trails is included as well, and is an element the county believes of elevated importance as people increasingly park along county roads to recreate by the year.

"Parking is a growing challenge at all trailheads throughout the county," said Don Reimer, county planning director. "You see more and more cars parking on the side of the road or pulling off into the weeds, and that certainly is a concern we are seeing more of."

The legal team representing the plaintiff has also raised wildlife impact concerns on the currently undeveloped land that the county previously identified as a possible site for workforce housing. The builder's own consultant on the matter confirmed the area as potential Canada lynx habitat, general moose and deer migration corridors, and both elk and black bears may use it for summer range.

However, the findings suggested little to no disturbance or adverse effects to these animals, nor to three state-listed bird species: the bald eagle, ferruginous hawk and peregrine falcon. None of the latter are known to have habitat or nests near the project area and were not witnessed during a site visit.

The county's commissioners unanimously approved the preliminary development rights in mid-June that triggered the lawsuit, as well as the conditional authorization on Monday to rezone the land for housing. During that public hearing, the board gave the builder a list of conditions that would need to be met for eventual final consent on the project down the road.

"At this point in time, we are moving forward processing the application, and defending the lawsuit from the previous application," said Keely Ambrose, Summit's assistant county attorney.

The builder plans to submit that paperwork as soon as possible and believes if granted approval once details like the structuring of the HOA and other agreements are settled, road, infrastructure, trails and the bus stop can be completed as part of phase one in 2017. Phase two would include the deed-restricted townhomes and some selective construction on the single-family homes, followed by finishing those 14 residences in 2019's phase three.

"We're really proud of the development," said Jeff Francis, co-owner of the applicant development company. "We've done a lot of tedious work with referral agencies and neighbors, and frankly, the (county) vote speaks for itself."