Developing Stagecoach

Having waited patiently since the 1970s, Wittemyers are ready to create new subdivision

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— Chris Wittemyer says he and his father, John, have had interest from parties interested in purchasing the entire 337-acre parcel they now call "The Meadows at Stagecoach."

The prospective buyers sought to turn it into a private ranch with a single trophy home. But that concept didn't fit in with the big picture the Wittemyers see developing on the foothills and mountainsides overlooking Stagecoach Reservoir's south shore.

"I personally think the Meadows are something that need to be part of the community out there," Chris said. "In the long run, you have a growth area for Routt County there, and you have to ask yourself, 'Is (a single ranch with a trophy home) really the best plan for the area?'"

Ultimately, the plan the Wittemyers came up with is a subdivision of 12 large clustered lots sharing common open space under Routt county's "land preservation subdivision" ordinance. The common area totals 224.52 acres and provides a buffer between the subdivision and the portion of the Routt National Forest it borders, Wittemyer said. Homeowners also enjoy direct access to the forest.

"The Meadows at Stagecoach" includes a dozen lots ranging in size from 6.7 to 21 acres. All of them border open space, and all of them are in close proximity to a soft-surface nordic skiing and hiking trail. The irregularly shaped property is bounded on several sides by national forest. And eventually, the trails will link up to the base of the now dormant Stagecoach ski area. The Wittemyers are talking about reviving the ski area to some degree, but the area hasn't yet reached the critical mass needed to go forward, Wittemyer said.

The subdivision trails are built wide enough to accommodate grooming and track setting equipment for cross-country skiing. They should also be ideal for snowshoeing, hiking and horseback riding. Because they are dedicated to the Stagecoach ski area, also under the Wittemyers' ownership, there will be no conflict about access in the future, he said.

The Wittemyers have been involved in Stagecoach for years, patiently waiting for Routt County's housing market to catch up with the development that launched in the 1970s but never matured. Chris says they are sensitive to the fact that new development there cannot ignore the presence of the existing condos, which were built in the 1970s.

"It's a gorgeous natural setting, but there are already (condos) there," Wittemyer said. "It takes a lot of vision to see how this project is going to get there."

Wittemyer said the mix of housing units in today's market needs to offer variety, but he would regret seeing outright trophy homes in close proximity to the more modest condos, creating a neighborhood of extremes.

Of the 12 lots the largest two have closed. The buyers are from Denver and Wisconsin.

The two lots that have been taken off the board were listed for $375,000 both are close to 21 acres in size.

The remaining 10 lots begin with the smallest at 7.1 acres and priced at $225,000. They range in size up to 12 acres for $320,000. There is another, smaller lot at $350,000 for 9.4 acres. The latter has no immediate neighbors, and is surrounded by timbered open space on three sides.

All of the lots are platted with building envelopes which define the area within the property lines where the structure can actually be built.

A new subdivision road, Green Ridge Road, linking up with County Road 16, is in place, affording more convenient access. The telephone and electric lines are going in this summer.

Wittemyer said that although the subdivision is in the Morrison Creek water and sanitation district, purchasers of lots will need to install their own wells and septic systems the subdivision isn't large enough to feasibly amortize the cost of district water and sanitation, Wittemyer explained.

A test well between lots 7 and 8 was dug to 500 feet, hitting water at 180 and 350 feet.

The flow at 180 feet of 12 gallons per minute is ample for single-family homes, he said.

The lots were carefully planned to take advantage of gently sloping terrain, small hills and transitions from dark timber to aspen fringes and pocket meadows covered in native grasses.

A brochure for The Meadows touts the serenity of the area.

"No shopping malls, no traffic jams. What's shaking at Stagecoach? Only the aspen leaves. You don't have to worry about the suburbs creeping in. To have suburbs, you'd have to have a city, and we don't even have a traffic light. Gang activity is limited to coyotes and a few delinquent cats."

Wittemyer said he is marketing The Meadows to take advantage of its location between the Steamboat and Vail ski areas. Steamboat is 18 miles to the north, he said.

But he learned from fellow Realtor Scott Eggleston that the Vail market perceives Stagecoach differently than the Steamboat market. Steamboat people with long memories remember that the Woodmoor Corp., which the Wittemyers had no connection with, failed with its ski area at Stagecoach in the 1970s. Some stigma still remains.

Vail and the Eagle Valley are only an hour to the south, and Eagle Valley Regional Airport isn't much further than Yampa Valley Regional Airport near Hayden, which serves Steamboat.

Wittemyer expects that about half of the buyers for The Meadows at Stagecoach will be from Colorado's Front Range people who are seeking to purchase a "slice of the West," and who don't place as much importance on alpine skiing as those buying as close to Steamboat and Vail mountains as they can get. He even expects that some of his buyers will be people who already own a condo in Vail and are looking for an additional retreat, a little further from the commotion and bright lights along Interstate 70.

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