Blue River embroiled in controversy over residential development proposal
The town of Blue River is hosting a workshop next week to consider an annexation and rezoning proposal that could pave the way for a high density residential development project just south of the town’s existing boundary.
Several Blue River residents have come out in opposition of the proposal.
The application, first submitted in March to the town of Blue River, outlines a residential development project to construct 68 units — encompassing single-family, duplex and multi-family configurations — on 48 acres of land now located in unincorporated Summit County. The application was submitted by Breckenridge attorney Daniel Teodoru on behalf of Cabin Properties Inc. and the Carl A. Schmidt Living Trust, which collectively owns the land proposed for annexation and rezoning.
The land up for consideration encompasses three separate sections, including .831 of an acre known as the Schissler plat, .771 of an acre known as the Sanitation parcel and 46.604 acres called the Schmidt parcel. Collectively, the land is known as the Ruby Placer.
According to county zoning regulations, 43.927 acres of the Ruby Placer is designated as A-1 agricultural land, which would permit the development of one unit per 20 acres. The remaining 2.83 acres are zoned R-6 residential, which would permit the development of six units per acre.
However, in the application Teodoru cites a subdivision plat adopted in 1966 by the Summit County Commission that permitted up to 48 condo-style units on the .8-acre Schissler parcel. Although the original plat stipulates the units would be restricted in size to about 460 square feet each, Teodoru argues his clients have developmental entitlements to those units.
The application further argues that pending approval of the rezoning application, the owners would then be able to transfer those development rights to the entirety of the Ruby Placer, hence the proposed 68 single- and multi-family units. The proposal also outlines plans for 22 acres of public and private open space.
Blue River resident Robert Key has been a vocal opponent in recent weeks to the proposal. Although he adamantly opposes the proposed density of the project, Key has also raised concerns about a section of the Ruby Placer the developer wants to set aside for mixed-use development.
According to the proposal, the land set aside for mixed use encompasses 2.3 acres and could house 4,000- to 8,000-square feet of commercial space and no more than 10 residential units.
“The developer is trying to apply the zoning regulations of several small parcels and apply it to more than 18 acres of land, which would be an almost 400-percent increase in the existing R-6 footprint,” Key said. “It’s too big and there’s too much left to the imagination in this zoning proposal.”
The Summit County Commission also appears to have its own concerns with the project. During its regularly scheduled Tuesday, May 27, workshop, Kate Berg, Summit County senior planner, outlined several potential problems with the application as it is currently written.
The first deals with Teodoru’s argument that his clients have developmental entitlements because of the 1966 Schissler Condominium Subdivision Plat approval. At the time of the approval, Summit County did not have zoning regulations in place. However, it adopted zoning regulations in 1969, which therefore made the initial plat approval null and void, Berg said.
Berg also cited the Joint Upper Blue Master Plan, which was adopted in 1997 by Summit County and the towns of Breckenridge and Blue River. The document was created to slow overdevelopment around Breckenridge and was written in the spirit of protecting the Upper Blue Basin’s natural resources and community character, Berg said.
Although the joint master plan serves exclusively as an advisory document, it does provide guidelines about future development in the Blue River Basin.
According to the agreement, all future development would need to be in compliance with current zoning regulations. In addition, the master plan also states that regardless of the location of a proposed project, the cooperating jurisdiction permitting the least amount of density would take precedence.
In other words, because the town of Blue River is considering annexation and the Ruby Placer is currently located in unincorporated Summit County, Blue River and Summit County zoning regulations could be applied to the project. In this case, the parcels are zoned as A-1 agricultural and R-6 residential under Summit County code, which allows the least amount of density and should be applied as a baseline for the project, Berg said.
Under that model, the county has identified the Ruby Placer would be permitted to house only 23 residential units.
But the Joint Upper Blue Master Plan does contain an avenue for the developer to move forward with the project through the plan’s Transferable Development Rights program.
Adopted in 2000 by way of an intergovernmental agreement between Breckenridge and Summit County, the Transferable Development Rights program identified backcountry units in the county, known as “sending areas,” that would allow density credits to be transferred to “receiving areas,” primarily located around Breckenridge.
The county manages the Joint Upper Blue TDR Bank, and purchases and sells development rights. A later amendment to the intergovernmental agreement added Blue River as a receiving area.
Summit County manager Gary Martinez and Summit County assistant manager Thad Noll said in recent weeks the county has no authority over the project other than to provide comments to the Blue River Board of Trustees. Both Martinez and Noll said it would be their preference to abide by the tenets of the Joint Blue River Master Plan either through the Transferable Development Rights program or by applying appropriate density restrictions according to code.
The proposal will be heard at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, during a joint meeting of the Blue River Board of Trustees and the Blue River Planning and Zoning Commission at Blue River Town Hall, 72 Summit County Road 451.
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