Sunburst sketch plan OK'd

First phase of major development moves forward

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— Tom Heuer and the 4S Development crew finally are smiling after a Hayden Planning Commission meeting.

After almost a year of meetings with the Planning Commission, the developers of the proposed 900-acre Sunburst Ranch subdivision received Thursday what they have sought for so long: approval of a sketch plan.

"It's just really encouraging after struggling for so long," Heuer said. "The decision shows that they're ready and willing to make the commitment."

Heuer said the town's hiring of independent planning consultant Tim Katers greatly helped the progression of the planning process. He called Katers "an asset to 4S and the town."

After more than two hours of discussion Thursday night, the Hayden Planning Commission approved a sketch plan for the first phase of Sunburst Ranch, called Sunburst Park North, which contains 190 residential lots, 145 of which are designated for mobile homes.

Katers said the approval of the sketch plan "gives an indication of the type of development that a community is willing to accept."

Though the Planning Commission approved the sketch plan, lingering issues must be resolved before moving to the next step, which is preliminary plat approval. Some of those issues were addressed Thursday night.

Town Manager Rob Straebel asked representatives of 4S Development whether they had evidence there is demand for the number of mobile homes being proposed. Citing the slow rate at which homes are being built in other Hayden subdivisions, and the presence of empty mobile homes in the area, Straebel said he was concerned Hayden might be getting more homes than it needs.

Heuer responded by saying he thinks some of the homes in other subdivisions, such as Sagewood, are not affordable, whereas Sunburst Park North will be.

Ron Sills, also of 4S, said Sunburst's manufactured-home lots would sell, even though lots are vacant in some of the town's trailer parks, because of the new, landscaped areas surrounding the Sunburst mobile home area.

Others planning commissioners were concerned that the percentage of mobile homes may be too high and the development's aesthetic aspects may not be in the community's best interest.

Katers reminded the Planning Commission that most of the manufactured-home lots would not be on the main road, and that homes on the main road would be clustered in groups of owner-occupied mobile and modular homes to "soften the look" of the mobile home park.

Katers also reported that 4S would donate several acres to the Hayden School District in the second phase of Sunburst Ranch. That land could be used for a new school or school facilities in the future.

Hayden Schools Superintendent Scott Mader said the donated site probably could be used in the future for a new high school. He said some high schools now being built are using up to 35 acres, and a new high school in Hayden would need at least 20 acres.

The first proposal from the developers earmarked two school parcels across the street from each other that totaled 19 acres.

Mader suggested it would be better to avoid having a road through school property, and the developers agreed to consider moving some commercially zoned areas to consolidate the school property on one lot.

If the planned commercial areas moved, the school would have about 25 acres, Katers said.

Sills asked Mader whether the school district's enrollment is increasing.

Mader said numbers have been decreasing, and "to have the amenities our students deserve, we have to have a growing population."

Sills said the new homes would start a growing population, and bring money to the schools and also town merchants.

The Planning Commission agreed the plans were at sufficient for sketch approval.

In other business, approval of the preliminary plat for Developer Paul Flood's 30-lot subdivision, "The Meadow," was tabled until more detailed information could be compiled about a large pond or wetland area that would be located at the front of the subdivision, in view of Routt County Road 53.

Several Planning Commission members said they were not comfortable moving forward without a better idea of exactly what the pond would look like, and whether it could be hazardous for children or be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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