Letter from Black Forest Land Use Committee
to Black Forest News concerning
"Sanctuary in the Pines" development (formerly "Pineries Ranch")

September 14, 2006

Dear Black Forest Community,

Last week, the developers of the Pineries Ranch, now to be called the Sanctuary in the Pines, met with the Black Forest Land Use Committee and the County planning staff to discuss where they are in the process of their development plans. This property consists of 2377 acres, of which 1040 were already in a conservation easement when the developers purchased it. There was a debate over whether or not the 1040 acres could be included in the overall density calculation to determine the number of homes that could be built on the remaining property. If the 1040 acres can be included, then the number of homes allowed on the remainder would be 475; if it could not be included, the number allowed would be 267.

The developers came to the meeting last week with the announcement that they would not be using the 1040 acres in the calculation. The Committee supports this decision. However, the developers believe that they have earned a density bonus that would allow them to have extra lots anyway. They say that they should receive a bonus for promising to put in a central water system, and because they have the right to log the timber on the conservation easement, and to extract minerals from underneath the easement, but are giving up those rights. In addition, they are transferring the conservation easement to the County Parks so that the public can access the land. The developers believe that they should be allowed to have at least 355 homes, and perhaps as many as 434 homes, as a reward for these gestures.

The Committee does not believe that such a bonus has been earned. We believe that the remainder of the property should be built out with an overall density of 1 lot per 5 acres, meaning a total of 267 homes. Although the developers had agreed to follow the Black Forest Preservation Plan up until this point, they now say that the Preservation Plan is outdated and that 1 lot per 5 acres is not that important to people, and that water is a greater concern than density.

The developers said that they need at least 355 lots to afford to put in the central water system and still make their targeted profit. If limited to 267, they will put the lots on individual wells into the Dawson. The Committee believes that this threat is intended to scare people about putting more straws into the Dawson. But the developers have the water rights under the entire parcel to all four aquifers, and have publicly stated the possibility of exporting water off the parcel. So, it is not clear that a central deep well for more lots is any better than individual wells into the Dawson for fewer lots.

Regardless, the Committee believes that if we compromise on the density for any of the above reasons, including the water issue, then we will forever be plagued by requests for other bonuses and trade-offs on future developments. Density is at the core of how well the community can be built out and still function the way BF residents intended as outlined in the BFPP. The more homes there are, the more traffic there is on the roads, the more schools that are needed, and the more strain on county resources to meet these needs.

In talking to a variety of people within the community, only two have felt that we should compromise on the density. One person is afraid of retribution if we don't give the developers what they want, and the other person doesn't care about anybody but himself (his words) and is hoping to make his own deal with the developer. Everybody else has stated firmly that we should not compromise on the density, as the consequences down the road will be untenable. The Committee believes that we must stand firm on the density policy. Decisions of this magnitude must be based on sound principles, not on fear of retribution or a refusal to consider broader consequences.

Please let us know what you think. Drop us a note and tell us whether or not you believe that Black Forest should adhere to the 1 lot per 5 acre density. Mail your letters to:

        Black Forest Community Club
        P.O. Box 88034
        Black Forest, CO 80908-8034

and be sure to say that you are writing about the density issue.

Sincerely yours,

Amy Phillips, Chair
Black Forest Land Use Committee