The history of development proposals in the Byers Peak meadow is long and mixed. A new chapter is being discussed with the proposed development of 123 lots on 12.7 acres relatively close to existing homes on Mill Ave. in Fraser. Lots in the subdivision will be as small as 25 x 80 feet, basically comprising the area of a 2,000 square foot house.
I am strongly in favor of increasing density within our communities – not only to lessen the impact of urban sprawl but also as a market-driven way to lower housing prices. The concept is good, the design problems and land use issues with preliminary plans for this project can be resolved.
Both County and Fraser master plans point to the goal of including dense developments within existing communities. The Grand County Planning staff review of the project notes effective planning aims for “focusing density toward the towns as referenced in the Master Plan.”
I have heard objections to my previous work to short-circuit the annexation of this meadow to Fraser six years ago utilizing a citizen referendum. The plan and annexation agreement at that time bore little relationship to this plan. My efforts at that time were not aimed at preventing any development in this meadow. I do not object to Fraser Valley growth. I do remain committed to ensuring we plan our growth to ensure our valley is both affordable and is a place we can enjoy living in.
This project might provide opportunities for locals to buy a home. If the project were in Fraser the cost of water and sewer taps would decrease (if the homes were under 1,500 square feet) by a total of $7,600. Monthly service fees would also be lower. The project will be served by town water and sewer. No plans were put forward to restrict sale to locals or to restrict nightly rentals in the planned neighborhood.
One resolvable design flaw sees two story homes being built with no setback to side lot lines. This brings up several issues, including snow sliding off two story high roofs and through neighbor’s windows. There must be some restrictions as to the design of neighborhood roofs.
The plat incorporates 30% open space laced with community trails. Trails should be afforded the same importance as roads – paths should be public rights of ways. Old town Fraser does not even have sidewalks; having a nearby neighborhood with a place for small children to ride bikes and walk would certainly be great. In addition, the areas around this subdivision have not yet been platted, it should be a safe assumption trails will connect with future neighborhoods and eventually with regional paths to help ensure an interconnected system can be utilized for non-motorized methods of local travel.
Noting the narrow streets and density of driveways, county planning staff recommended private plowing. Private streets open several risks. Residents will pay more for plowing – snowplowing is provided to county residents as a benefit of their property taxes. Any failure of the neighborhood homeowner’s association to provide services will bring residents to the county to demand winter access to their homes. The town of Fraser would be challenged to provide water and sewer services in a neighborhood with poorly maintained streets.
Approval of the design of this subdivision depends on the use of multiple variances to county zoning regulations. Fraser land use regulations would allow for this type of densely developed neighborhood.
The history of master planning in our county goes back to the Fraser Valley Master plan in the 1970’s. The focus of these planning efforts has been to keep the County in the business of permitting relatively low-density developments while asking communities to take on the task of building well-functioning towns. Our County Commissioners should support a professionally designed community by insisting on maintaining this direction.
Andy Miller takes off his Fraser Trustee hat and offers his opinions here as a columnist and 46-year-long resident of the Fraser Valley.