Laloba Ranch owners seek approval for smaller subdivision
April 26, 2009
Steamboat Springs — The owners of Laloba Ranch Clay Center art school would like to subdivide their 40-acre parcel to allow them to sell two 5-acre home lots. Some of their neighbors are strongly opposed.
Owners Judie Day and her husband, Biz Littell, are scheduled to present the case for creating a total of three lots on their property to the Routt County Regional Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Thursday. Day and Littell, both former college professors, have operated ceramic workshops in a free-standing studio on the property for a decade.
“We need to do this to continue offering our school,” Day said. “We put everything we had into it.”
Laloba Ranch, on Routt County Road 43A, is in a seldom-seen part of Routt County on a dry fork of Cow Creek, just over a pass and to the west from the larger Whitewood subdivision, where the southwest flank of the ridge that tails out from Emerald Mountain spills across into coal country farther west.
If one were returning home from Denver, he or she might come via Routt County Road 14 through Whitewood. Driving home from Steamboat, you could take Twentymile Road to a left turn on Routt County Road 43. The county road is barely maintained – it’s classified as a “remote” dirt road by the Routt County Road and Bridge Department, implying a level of service that often doesn’t see as much snow plowing as that of a primary road.
Day said her plan to create two new lots of 5.3 and 5.7 acres, leaving a third now occupied by Laloba of 28.7 acres, would result in an average lot size of 13.23 acres, larger than many in the neighboring Whitewood and Lower Beaver Ridge subdivision.
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In addition, she said she is willing to place an easement on an 11-acre hay meadow on the larger lot to ensure it remains in agricultural use.
“We have a beautiful rolling ranch meadow,” Day said. “We’ve agreed to make that agricultural property forever.”
The Laloba petition seeks to create three lots where there now is one. In addition to Day’s home, the largest of the three lots also contains a five-stall horse barn, two-story art studio with living quarters above for boarding students, a kiln in a separate building and a hay barn. Laloba has a 10-year conditional-use permit from the county allowing it to operate the art school. It is valid through April 2012.
The application submitted on behalf of Laloba points out that the nearby Whitewood, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Valley subdivisions comprise more than 50, 5-plus acre lots.
The neighbors of Laloba on C.R. 43A are particularly concerned about adding any more traffic on the difficult road.
At certain times of year, the neighbors say the creek actually flows down the narrow road. And that’s part of their concern with the Laloba proposal.
“Not only is it narrow, with hairpin turns, blind corners, but it floods out!” neighbors Scott and Lyn Halliday wrote in a March 31 letter to county officials.
Other neighbors just don’t want more neighbors.
“Those of us who live in this area have chosen to do so to enjoy the peace and quiet and the open space here,” Kay Combs wrote to County Planner Connie Staponski. “We put up with the inconveniences of living out of town because we value the quiet country living we have.”
There is precedence for the creation of 5-acre lots in the vicinity. Laloba Ranch is part of a parcel previously known as Pepperland Ranch Subdivision. The county commissioners approved the subdivision and changed the zoning classification to Mountain Resort Estate in fall 1972, allowing lots as small as 5 acres.
The approved final plat for Pepperland never was recorded, and the property subsequently was subdivided into large parcels and sold. However, the county never changed the zoning.
Day said she and her husband understood when they purchased the land in 1996 that they weren’t guaranteed they had the right to subdivide, but they anticipated that if they met county criteria, it would be approved. To be denied that opportunity, they think, would amount to a taking of property rights.
Day and Littell previously applied to the county Aug. 1, 2008, for permission to create eight, 5-acre lots on their land. That proposal drew a recommendation of denial from the Planning Commission, and the application was withdrawn before the county commissioners heard it.
Day hopes the current proposal will meet with a recommendation for approval this week.
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