A trio of rural subdivisions working their way through the county planning process holds the potential to create 117 new multi-million dollar homes in the valley.
The three subdivisions are Steamboat River Ranch, Alpine Moun--tain Ranch and Elk Mountain Ranch. All three would be land-preservation subdivisions, which cluster home sites so that the bulk of the property can remain open space.
Steamboat River Ranch would cluster 19 home sites on 115 acres of a 531-acre site. The subdivision would be built on part of the historic More Ranch just below Lake Catamount, south of Steamboat on Colo--rado Highway 131. The Yampa River runs through the property.
Steamboat River Ranch is on the consent agenda for Thursday's Routt County Planning Commission meeting. Planning director Caryn Fox is recommending approval of the project. The developer is Steamboat Mountain Holdings I, LLC, under the direction of managing partner Robert Comes of Saratoga, Calif.
Alpine Mountain Ranch is larger than Steamboat River Ranch and closer to the Steamboat Ski Area. It would create 43, 5- to 5.5-acre home sites clustered on 230 acres just south of the city limits.
The subdivision would be adjacent to the existing Priest Creek Ranch subdivision. At one time, they both were part of a proposal for a denser residential project.
Former Vail Resort president Andy Daly and Cincinnati-based Bill Butler are the principals in Steamboat Alpine Development. They purchased the land for $19 million in April.
Land-use planner Peter Patten of Patten Associates said the Steamboat Alpine Development team hopes to go through a preliminary approval process this fall and seek full approval in late winter or early spring.
Elk Mountain Ranch, which may be renamed before going on the market, is the largest of the three proposed LPS projects. It is being developed by Jeff Temple, one of the principals in the existing Storm Mountain Ranch, and his partners, Mark Hall and Jeff Jepson.
Temple said the 14 home sites at Storm Mountain Ranch came on the market for $2 million to $2.4 million and were sold within a year.
"Nobody thought that would happen. We worked very hard with our team to make every single aspect of the ranch really special," Temple said. "We hoped the market would support it. It was rewarding when they turned out to be a good investment."
Temple said three of the undeveloped home sites were resold by the original purchasers for as much as $3.85 million. Another is on the market for $4.25 million.
After launching Maytag Ranch near Salida, Temple is back to expand and, he said, improve on the rural-luxury model. The Elk Mountain LPS would be developed on 1,717 acres west of Steamboat and north of U.S. Highway 40. It would create 55 lots on portions of the Kettel, Sherrod, Selby and Sammons properties.
Planning Commission has given tentative approval to the plan.
All three development groups are proposing to use building envelopes that are smaller than what is typical to reduce the homes' visual disturbance of the landscape.
Steamboat River Ranch should not be obvious from Colo. 131, county planner Mary Alice Page-Allen said.
"You might be able to see a couple of roofs from 131, but for the most part, you'll never even know (the homes) are there," Page-Allen said.
Comes said he has taken pains (together with Patten, who also is working on River Ranch) to ensure the home sites are visually screened from the pending Lafarge gravel pit, nearby on the More Ranch.
"It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been," Comes said. "The land plan for the LPS avoids the impacts from the gravel mine. We've been able to place the 19 home sites so they're in their own sanctuary back there. And from out on 131, the view corridor from the Catamount turn will remain open."
All three projects envision keeping existing hay meadows and wildlife habitat intact. Temple said he thinks a large grouse lek on Elk Mountain Ranch, along with elk, deer and an occasional mountain lion, are all part of the attraction.
"We want the ranch to remain a very viable ag operation and we've tread very lightly," Comes said. "We've enjoyed working with the More family, and our objective is to keep the hay meadows the way they are today. I think we've achieved that."
Temple said he presented his plan for Elk Mountain Ranch to the Community Agriculture Alliance this week and invited members to point out any missteps they think he's making.
"Keeping agriculture on the land is really important to us," Temple said.
Storm Mountain and nearby Catamount Ranch established models in the Yampa Valley for combining luxury rural subdivisions with recreational amenities.
Catamount offers boating and fishing in its lake. Its hay meadows are home to groomed cross-country during the winter. However, the golf course is the dominant amenity.
Temple had faith he could successfully market a luxury Colorado mountain subdivision without building a golf course, and he proved it was possible.
Storm Mountain Ranch combines trophy trout fishing in Walton Creek as well as in ponds and irrigation ditches carefully rebuilt to fish like spring creeks. It also offers its owners horseback riding and a small group of guest cabins clustered around a lodge.
Temple said he and his partners spent $17.5 million on amenities at Storm Mountain Ranch.
"We think Steamboat is really special and the hours and hours and all the detail that went into the ranch and the architecture of the buildings is phenomenal."
Temple is working again with his Storm Mountain partners and the development's land planner, Tom Braun. Their plans at Elk Mountain Ranch include a lodge building, seven fishing cabins along the Elk River, an equestrian facility and employee housing.
Alpine Mountain Ranch anticipates offering a stable of as many as a dozen horses and a trail system for the use of residents. The goal also is to provide hiking trails on par with trails in the Routt National Forest. There will be trout fishing in ponds.
Comes hopes his trout stream will target avid anglers in his marketing.
Combined, the three new subdivisions represent hundreds of millions of dollars in development that inevitably will change some land-use patterns in the Yampa Valley. Yet, if the LPS projects do their intended job, large parcels of agricultural land and wildlife habitat will remain as they are.