Loveland Bike Trail
 

LARIMER COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION

Minutes of December 16, 2009

 

The Larimer County Planning Commission met in a regular session on Wednesday, December 16, 2009, at 6:30 p.m. in the Hearing Room.  Commissioners’ Boucher, Cox, Glick, Hart, Hess, Morgan, and Weitkunat were present.  Commissioners Commissioner Wallace presided as Chairman.  Also present were Matt Lafferty, Principle Planner, Rob Helmick, Senior Planner, Toby Stauffer, Planner II, Eric Tracy, Engineering Department, Doug Ryan, Health Department and Jill Wilson, Planning Technician and Recording Secretary. 

 

Mr. Lafferty accompanied Commissioners Cox, Hart, Wallace, and Weitkunat on a site visit to Bingham Hill Farms Special Review.

 

COMMENTS BY THE PUBLIC REGARDING THE COUNTY LAND USE CODE: 

None

 

COMMENTS BY THE PUBLIC REGARDING OTHER RELEVANT LAND USE MATTERS NOT ON THE AGENDA:  

None

 

APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES FOR THE NOVEMBER 18, 2009 MEETINGS:   MOTION by Commissioner Glick to approve the minutes, seconded by Commissioner Cox.  This received unanimous voice approval.

 

AMENDMENTS TO THE AGENDA:

None

 

CONSENT ITEMS:

 

ITEM #1  FOSSIL CREEK TRAIL LOCATION AND EXTENT  #09-Z1766:  Mr. Helmick provided background information on the request for an extension of and a roadway underpass for the Fossil Creek Trail located on the west side of the Fort Collins GMA between Pineridge and Cathy Fromme Natural Areas and crossing County Road 38E, ½ mile west of Taft Hill Road.

 

DISCUSSION:

 

Commissioner Hart moved that the Planning Commission adopt the following Resolution:

 

BE IT RESOLVED that the Planning Commission approve the Fossil Creek Trail Location and Extent, file #09-Z1766, s ubject to the following condition:

 

1.   All permits and permissions shall be obtained prior to the commencement of any construction.

 

Commissioner Weitkunat seconded the Motion.

 

Commissioners' Boucher, Cox, Glick, Hart, Hess, Morgan, Weitkunat and Chairman Wallace voted in favor of the Motion.

 

MOTION PASSED:  8-0

 

 

ITEM #2  CARTER LAKE HYDRO FACILITY LOCATION AND EXTENT #09-Z1767:  Mr. Helmick provided background information on the request for a 2.6mW hydro electric power plant located below the east dam at Carter Lake north of County Road 8E adjacent to the treatment plant.

 

DISCUSSION:

Commissioner Hart moved that the Planning Commission adopt the following Resolution:

 

BE IT RESOLVED that the Planning Commission approve the Carter Lake Hydro Facility Location and Extent, file #09-Z1767.

 

Commissioner Weitkunat seconded the Motion.

 

Commissioners' Boucher, Cox, Glick, Hart, Hess, Morgan, Weitkunat and Chairman Wallace voted in favor of the Motion.

 

MOTION PASSED:  8-0

 

ITEMS:

 

ITEM #3  AMENDMENTS TO THE LARIMER COUNTY LAND USE CODE, SECTION 14 (SOLAR)  #09-CA0096:  Ms. Bennett provided background information on amending the Land Use Code to designate solar energy power plants as Matters of State Interest.  She stated that facilities with a footprint of five acres or over would fall under the proposed new regulation.  She also noted that the Environment Advisory Board supported the five acre threshold and believed that the existing review criteria were adequate; however, they asked that staff continue to keep them informed of new research.  She stated that a new proposed designation would be added for solar power plants that read as follows:

 

“Siting and development of any solar energy power plant, including solar energy collectors, power generation facilities, facilities for storing and transforming energy and other appurtenant facilities, that together disturb an area greater than five acres, or any addition thereto that expands the disturbed area.  This designation shall not include roof mounted solar systems located on existing permitted principal and accessory buildings.”

 

PUBLIC TESTIMONY:

Carol Dollard, 591 Ford Hill Road, worked at Colorado State University as an energy engineer.  She handed out pictures of the new solar plant that CSU had just completed construction on.  It was one of the largest solar plants on a university campus in the United States.  The construction only took about three months and provided energy just for the CSU campus.  It also brought significant economic benefit to the county to the extent of $1.7 million dollars in local labor, local subcontractors, and local material.  She noted that she did not want to miss opportunities to do similar additional projects on CSU because there were additional hurdles with the county.  She encouraged that the language be amended to only apply to people who intended to export power on to the grid and to allow large customers to do systems on their own sites that would have minimal impact and great environmental benefit to the community. 

 

Commissioner Morgan asked if CSU was aware that the county was considering adding the proposed language to the Land Use Code?

 

Ms. Dollard replied no, not until she saw an announcement for the hearing.

 

Commissioner Morgan asked what her perception was of the regulatory burden of going through the 1041 process?

 

Ms. Dollard replied that it was the time.  The negotiations to set up and do a project were very fragile and if there was a threat of a regulatory hurdle that might be problematic it could scare the developers away.  It took three years to negotiate the deal for CSU and there were lots of points where it could have fallen apart, and she did not want those threats to get even more fragile.

 

Commissioner Morgan asked if she had any other suggestions regarding the regulation.

 

Ms. Dollard replied increasing the acreage would help.  Five acres would be a small solar site in the scale of the plants as the CSU site was 15 acres.  Having the regulation state 15 or 20 acres might help to trigger the larger plants. 

 

DISCUSSION:

Commissioner Morgan asked about an appeal process.

 

Ms. Bennett replied that the Land Use Code included an appeal process that could apply to the new proposed regulation.

 

Commissioner Glick moved that the Planning Commission adopt the following Resolution:

 

BE IT RESOLVED that the Planning Commission recommend to the Board of County Commissioners that Amendments to the Larimer County Land Use Code, file #09-CA0096, be approved subject to the following condition:

 

14.4. Designated Matters of State Interest.

 

Add the following Section:

 

K.  Siting and development of any solar energy power plant, including solar energy collectors, power generation facilities, facilities for storing and transforming energy and other appurtenant facilities, that together disturb an area greater than five acres, or any addition thereto that expands the disturbed area.  This designation shall not include roof mounted solar systems located on existing permitted principal and accessory buildings.

 

 

Commissioner Hart seconded the Motion.

 

 Commissioners' Boucher, Cox, Glick, Hart, Hess, Morgan, Weitkunat and Chairman Wallace voted in favor of the Motion.

 

MOTION PASSED:  8-0

 

 

ITEM #4  BINGHAM HILL FARMS SPECIAL REVIEW #09-Z1749:  Ms. Stauffer provided background information on the request for a Special Review to allow a Community Hall (Events Center) and a Seasonal Camp located at 3924 Bingham Hill Road.  The request also included an appeal to Section 8.6.3.C of the Larimer County Land Use Code to allow the parking lot and access drive to be surfaced in an all weather material instead of asphalt.  She explained that the property was currently used as single family residential and as a wholesale nursery.  The proposal was to expand the single family residence to add a gymnasium and add the uses of “Seasonal Camp” and “Community Hall” to the property.  The wholesale tree nursery would continue to function with the addition of the two new uses.  She remarked that the seasonal camp would last six weeks during the summer and all campers would stay on site.  The maximum amount of participants at the camp would be twenty.  Camps would last one week and all participants would arrive and depart around the same time on the weekends.  Campers would stay in the gym or in tents on site and restrooms and a kitchen would be build to accommodate the camp.  The Community Hall/Events Center would operate year round during the times when the camp was not operational.  She stated that the events center would allow up to 150 people, which was reduced from 200.  Typical events would be corporate events or business meetings, weddings, and smaller get-togethers like family reunions.  She mentioned that traffic on Bingham Hill Road would be an impact of the proposal, and the applicant was proposing to limit the hours of operation to no later then 10 p.m. and hold events seasonally instead of year round.  She also noted that the applicant had completed and submitted a photometric plan regarding site lighting.  She stated that several comments had been received from the public and surrounding neighbors and a majority of the concerns expressed dealt with the commercial nature of the activity including noise and number of people, paving the parking area, dust, lighting, impacts to wildlife, concerns with drinking and driving, visual impacts, and increased traffic.  The Development Services Team was recommending approval of the proposal and appeal subject to several conditions.

 

Commissioner Cox asked what the seasonality of the events would be?

 

Ms. Stauffer replied that events would occur during a typical wedding season which was generally May to October.  The applicant had also indicated that he proposed to have three events per week as opposed to one event every day. 

 

Randy Pope, 3924 Bingham Hill Road, explained that his parents purchased the property in 1964, and in 1994 he purchased the undeveloped portion and built a home.  In 2000, the tree nursery was initiated.  He stated that he had worked with kids for years and had a dream to work with underserved youth.  He also felt that it was important to still utilize the rural setting and utilize the property improvements.  He stated that the primary use would be the seasonal camp, the secondary use would be the events center, and they would not be ran simultaneously.  The seasonal camp would be a basketball camp for high school age girls and would be six, one week sessions from June 1 through July 15.  The campers would arrive on Sunday and depart the following Sunday.  There would be 20 campers per session and would be a diverse socio-economic and racial mix of girls.  The gym would be expanded and a kitchen and shower facility would be added.  The proposed events center would only be a secondary use and only one event would be held per day.  Guest access would be limited to specific areas, there would be limited hours, and also limited alcohol of just beer and wine.  He also stated that there would be hired security at every event.  There would be an average of 3-4 events per week, all food and beverage would be catered, and the same facilities would be used for the seasonal camp.  He noted that the number of guests and events were lowered which he felt would help mitigate some of the public concern.  Also, he wanted to keep the rural feeling of the area and use recycled asphalt instead of paving the parking lot.  All amplified music would be indoors and landscaping would help to mitigate the noise.  Along with that, there would be minimal night events and there would be down lighting.  He stated that based on the research done, the information presented, and the concerns addressed he believed that the uses were compatible with the surrounding area.  He understood that the neighbors had concerns but believed that he was being responsive to those concerns.  He would take substantial and costly steps to mitigate their concerns to the fullest extent possible while still being able to have a sustainable business plan.  He stated that the proposal met or exceeded the county standards, and they had been and would continue to be good stewards of the land by not allowing it to be subdivided in the future. 

 

Commissioner Weitkunat asked if the camp was already operational?

 

Mr. Pope replied that he had a one week camp for the girls basketball team that he coached.

 

Commissioner Cox confirmed that he proposed to operate the seasonal camp for six weeks and the events center for 46 weeks.  She wondered what the seasonality would be.

 

Mr. Pope replied that the events season had seasonality and events would not be held all 12 months of the year.  He stated that there would be a maximum of four events per week. 

 

Commissioner Glick stated that successors to the property could eliminate the seasonal camp and utilize those six weeks for events.

 

Mr. Pope stated that only 155 events would be allowed per year. 

 

Commissioner Glick asked if the basketball did not occur if he would be opposed to eliminating events during the six week camp period.

 

Mr. Pope replied yes because if the camp wasn’t successful it would limit his business plan. 

 

PUBLIC TESTIMONY:

Shelby Majors, 3927 Bingham Hill Road, stated that Mr. Pope’s lot was created through the Minor Residential Development process in 1994.  A condition was placed on the MRD that restricted them to single family residential uses.  In October Mr. Pope asked to have that restriction taken off of his lot to allow him to apply for the Special Review.  It was approved by the Board of County Commissioners; however, neighbors did not get notice.  She stated that Mr. Pope had operated a wholesale tree nursery on his property for nine years which occupied a majority of the acreage, utilized several outbuildings, and had several employees.  It was a commercial, agricultural use that did not match the restriction placed on the MRD.  The nursery was now the main use and the residence a secondary use on the property.  She remarked that he had also held a basketball camp on the property for the last seven years.  She stated that there were concerns regarding how the proposal could impact the surrounding property owners and property values. 

 

 

 

 

Ken Ecton, 4008 Bingham Hill Road, stated that his main concerns were light and noise pollution which he had discussed with Mr. Pope.  He stated that it was pretty quiet in the area, and he was in a close proximity to the property.  Mr. Pope had made a huge effort to mitigate lighting concerns, and the light that would be installed did control the lighting quite well.  However, there would be ambient lighting, and it would all be able to be seen.  He showed a picture of how the light would show from the property.  He did not believe that the outdoor activities would be compatible. 

 

John Schmid, 4009 Bingham Hill Road, presented information to the commission.  He was opposed to the project because it introduced an undesirable addition to the general area.  He further felt that it was a commercial use.  He mentioned that the traffic report was misleading so he conducted his own study.  It found that there were 40-50 vehicles per hour, and the proposal would increase that number.  He felt that it warranted a right turn lane into the property.  He disagreed that there was minimal impact to the surrounding property owners and was not in favor of the proposal. 

 

Joan Welch Schmid, 4009 Bingham Hill Road and 3708 Bingham Hill Road, presented and read a letter written by a neighbor, Mary Perina, whom could not attend.  The letter stated that her driveway was located between the Pope driveway and the top of the hill to the east.  Ms. Perina felt that her safety would be greatly compromised by the increased traffic that the proposal would acquire.  She felt that the traffic report was flawed and that the vehicular traffic should be considered before the proposal was passed.  She stated that she would be able to see the parking lot from her house and the lights and noise would effect the quality of life that her children and her enjoyed.  She remarked that they had already encountered visual impacts from the tree farm and the parking lot would only degrade the view to the north. 

 

Rebecca Douglas, 3605 W. Bingham Hill, presented a letter from her husband, Richard Spiess, and literature she received from Ms. Pope regarding the events center.  She stated that the Popes were already scheduling events and inviting people to view the property even though it had not been approve.  As a result, she did file a complaint with the Code Compliance Department.  In the proposal there were two proposed compromises that reflected an inappropriate concern for the safety of others.  The first was the request for exemption from the county paving requirements along with access width and turn-around.  The second was the reluctance to provide fire protection sprinklers in an assembly occupancy.  There was also the question of how many uses one could have on the property.  Her husband and she were requesting that Mr. Pope be required to live with the conditions placed on his lot just like everyone else and that the Planning Commission recommend denial of the Special Review application. 

 

Raye Sullivan, 4020 W. Bingham Hill, was opposed to the project.  Bingham Hill Road had hills and curves and increased traffic to the road would be a huge concern.  She was also concerned that cars might miss the turn off for the events center and use her driveway to turn around.  She stated that the camps he had on the property in the past did create noise and were easily heard at her property. 

 

Tom Throgmorton, 808 E. Ridgecrest, stated that he had known the Pope family professionally in the nursery business for ten years.  Currently their nursery was one of the most well organized and maintained in the state which he felt spoke to how the camp and event center would be ran.  He remarked that they were trying to mitigate as many concerns as they could.

 

Neal Spencer, 1820 N. County Road 23, stated that he had known the applicants for six years, and Mr. Pope coached his children.  He stated that they ran their businesses very professional and treated the kids professional.  He noted and appreciated the concerns of the neighbors but felt that Mr. Pope was trying to mitigate the concerns and be a good neighbor. 

 

Christine Day, 8476 National Circle, stated that she had known the Pope family for six years and met them through basketball.  She stated that she truly believed that their first priority was the basketball and the camp.  Mr. Pope was wonderful with the kids and wanted to teach them that there were others like them around the country and that it was okay to be different.  The benefit from what the youth received from the Popes was outstanding, and it would be a shame if they were not able to have their camp. 

 

Kelly Jo Stodleman, 4110 Bingham Hill Road, stated that she had lived there for 13 years.  She also stated that she worked for Mr. Pope.  She respected her neighbors concerns but understood that Mr. Pope wanted the basketball camp to be the primary focus, do events for the corporate world secondly, and have weddings as a third part.  She stated that the Pope family had always been a good neighbor and supported property rights.  She acknowledged that it was a community on Bingham Hill but the Popes were trying to address all the neighborhood concerns. 

 

Liz Whitney, 4130 Bingham Hill Road, supported what her neighbors had stated.  She stated that sound carried in the area, and the noise would be a concern.  She overlooked the property and would be able to see the events.  Mr. Pope did show her the lights, and she agreed that it was minimal light but it was still light.  She appreciated the effort by the Popes to try to mitigate the concerns but she was not happy about the large events that would be held.  She did not have a problem with the camp.

 

Mr. Pope clarified that in the past he had one camp a summer for the basketball team and did not profit from it.  He stated that the boys and girls of LaPorte did use the gym regularly as there was not a facility available in the area.  He stated that the number one priority of the proposal was the basketball camp.  He had also spoken to neighbors of the Tapestry House, which held two events per day, and they did not have any issues with the noise.  He stated that the traffic engineer and the county clarified and verified the sight distances, speed, etc.  

 

Commissioner Morgan asked how many people were engaged with his tree nursery during the summer time?

 

Mr. Pope replied two.  He explained how the nursery operated. 

 

Commissioner Morgan confirmed that the nursery operation would remain?

 

Mr. Pope replied yes.

 

Shelby Majors submitted a revised traffic report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCUSSION:

Commissioner Hart asked how the county would enforce the 155 events per year?

 

Ms. Stauffer stated that there would be conditions on the approval that would indicate those numbers, and it would be enforced on a complaint basis.

 

Commissioner Wallace asked if the operation of the nursery made the residence an accessory use?

 

Mr. Lafferty explained that the FA-Farming district permitted tree farms/nurseries as a use by right as an agricultural operation. 

 

Commissioner Morgan asked what happened with the change to the MRD condition.

 

Mr. Lafferty explained that MRD’s were an exemption process for land divisions that had occurred in the county prior to the year 2000 in an effort to allow property owners a simplistic way to divide their land without going through a full subdivision process.  Notes were placed on the plats limiting the lots to single family residential uses only.  He stated that the process to remove the note from the plat was an amended plat process which did not require notice to adjacent property owners by state statue. 

 

Commissioner Morgan thought that there needed to be clarification to how many uses could be put on small acreages. 

 

Mr. Lafferty stated that under the FA-1 Farming zoning district, which the property was zoned, single family residential was a use by right along with a tree farm. 

 

Commissioner Glick asked if the traffic study was done on the wrong property as stated by a member of the public.

 

Eric Tracy, Engineering Department, replied that the originally traffic study was done on the wrong lot.  The issue had been resolved and an addendum was submitted that showed that the sight distance standards could be met and was verified by county staff.

 

Commissioner Hart stated that all recommendations made would run with the land and not the people.  Therefore, the consideration had to be made whether that use was what was wanted on that property. 

 

Commissioner Wallace stated that the originally MRD restricted the lots to residential which created an expectation that it would remain that way.  The property was only ten acres and making it into a commercial use took away the feel of the rural subdivision.  It added additional traffic to Bingham Hill Road and it was not compatible with the neighborhood as the neighborhood was intended to be. 

 

Commissioner Morgan did not have an issue with the basketball camp proposal; however, it came down to the compatibility issue.  The events center would add to the intensity of use on a ten acre parcel.  There were established expectations in the area, and the neighborhood concerns needed to be respected.

 

Commissioner Cox agreed with both Commissioners Morgan and Wallace. 

 

Commissioner Boucher stated that the proposal really had to be looked at as an event center because the basketball camp seemed very specific to the owner.  His concern was with the neighbors but also with the applicants.  The applicants had followed the process and could meet the technical requirements of the Land Use Code.

 

Commissioner Glick agreed that compatibility needed to be looked at.

 

Commissioner Weitkunat stated that she spent 23 years in the hospitality industry and felt that sometimes the intensity of the use was overlooked based on what was perceived the business was going to be.  The area was becoming closer to the communities and there needed to be services available.  She did not have an issue with the compatibility based on how she perceived the events.  She did understand the concerns but believed that they could be mitigated, and she did not believe that the intensity was as great as perceived.

 

Commissioner Cox moved that the Planning Commission adopt the following Resolution:

 

BE IT RESOLVED that the Planning Commission recommend to the Board of County Commissioners that the Bingham Hill Farms Special Review, file #09-Z1749, for the property described on “Exhibit A” to the minutes, be denied.

 

Commissioner Hart seconded the Motion.

 

Commissioners’ Boucher and Weitkunat voted against the Motion.

 

Commissioners' Cox, Glick, Hart, Hess, Morgan, and Chairman Wallace voted in favor of the Motion.

 

MOTION PASSED:  6-2

 

 

 

REPORT FROM STAFF:  Mr. Lafferty reminded the Commission of their upcoming meetings. 

 

ADJOURNMENT:   There being no further business, the hearing adjourned at 9:50 p.m.

 

 

These minutes constitute the Resolution of the Larimer County Planning Commission for the recommendations contained herein which are hereby certified to the Larimer County Board of Commissioners.

 

 

 

 

_______________________________                      ______________________________

Nancy Wallace, Chairman                                          Gerald Hart, Secretary

 

EXHIBIT A

 

 

 

 

TR 2, POPE MRD 96-EX0830

 

Background Image: Loveland Bike Trail by Sharon Veit. All rights reserved.