Blue River voters reject controversial Ruby Placer annexation
Blue River voters on Tuesday roundly rejected a proposed annexation of the controversial Ruby Placer development. Supporters of the annexation say the “no”-vote will be an economic hit for the tiny town south of Breckenridge; opponents of the development say the election was a win for transparent government and mountain-community values.
Michelle Eddy, Blue River town administrator, said the unofficial vote was 209 against and 97 in support. The official numbers should be available by Thursday, she said.
Ruby Placer land is located on the east side of Colorado Highway 9, next to the Lodge by the Blue and Quandary Condos. Conversations about the development began in 2013.
Progress on Ruby Placer was delayed several times, as community members objected to the town council’s use of emergency ordinances to adjust zoning and annex the property.
The first of two emergency ordinances to annex the 48-acre Ruby Placer parcel was approved in July 2014, but was invalidated a few months later in September after an injunction was filed in Summit County District Court.
In March 2015, the council passed a second emergency ordinance to annex the parcel, but a petition drive compelled the council to drop the ordinance or allow residents to vote on the issue.
Blue River resident Mitch Weiss said tensions began when residents got wind that the town council attempted to pass the annexation as an emergency ordinance.
“People found out well into the game and got upset,” he said.
Danny Teodoru, legal counsel for project developers Cabin Properties, LLC and Carl A. Schmidt Living Trust, said an emergency ordinance was sought to avoid further project delays.
Mara Sheldon, a representative for the developer, said that the vote this week ultimately hurts Blue River financially.
“The residents of Blue River lost $100,000 in new deed transfer tax,” she said.
She also noted the town would have received numerous perks from the proposed development, such as a community center, parks, trails and a pond.
“Unfortunately, the residents of Blue River lost these benefits,” she said.
Blue River Mayor Lindsay Backas called the results of the vote unfortunate: “I think people had bad information and voted accordingly.”
Contrary to what opponents claimed, she said the public’s input was solicited.
“We had 15 open forums,” she said.
The mayor also noted there was a website and Facebook page specific to the issue.
The money lost in deed transfer taxes was earmarked for infrastructure improvements, most specifically roads, she said. “It will take longer to reach our goals.”
With the town’s annual operating budget locked in at $900,000, the deed transfer tax would have made for a significant increase.
Backas pointed out the town council didn’t create the proposal.
“The builder came to us; we didn’t recruit them,” she said.
She said the town council believed the development would benefit Blue River.
“The board got nothing except a year and a half of getting screamed at,” she said.
Both Sheldon and Backas said despite the “no”-vote, the area will still be developed.
Sheldon also disputed concerns over the density levels in the development.
“They were never going to build 68 units,” she said. “This was always going to be low density.”
With the plot remaining county land, future development would likely differ from the current plan. As the land is zoned, the county recognizes a maximum of 23 units of denisty on the 48.2-acre plot.
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