Discovery project encounters opposition
November 15, 2013
The Discovery CORE project, a development many years in the making to be located south of Kilby Road and the Weilenmann School of Discovery, encountered another hurdle Wednesday when it requested special exceptions to county code.
The project, a proposed 105-unit development encompassing 70 acres, was approved in 2011 under the now-outdated Community Oriented Residential Enhancement code, which sought to cluster development and maximize open space.
In order to maintain 80 percent open space and have 28 out of 105 units serve as affordable housing, the developer said exceptions to code are needed, which included: increased road grades of up to 10 percent, reduced building setbacks, reduced distance of driveways from intersections and reduced pavement width.
At Wednesday’s public hearing at the Summit County Council, the applicant, Glen Lent of D.R. Horton, said every townhome would be included with at least an 18-foot driveway and every single-family home would have a 21-foot driveway. He said he thought these exceptions were accepted under the CORE code, adding that current code is not designed for a mountain community with clustering.
Art Lange, a Summit Park resident, said the increase of road grades is a safety hazard. Conducting snow removal on steeper roads, he said, is "difficult and dangerous." He added that the developer’s proposed spans across Toll Canyon Creek were not suitable and would affect the local environment and beaver habitat.
Chris Hague, a Trailside resident, said the developers knew all along that they would not be able to complete the development in conformity with the code.
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"This is a classic case where a developer comes before the Council, knowing they’ll be back another day asking for exceptions," Hague said.
Jeremy Ranch resident Josh Mann said the main issue with the exceptions is a "fairness doctrine" and pointed to a case this year where a man in Red Hawk asked for a special exception for the grade of his driveway but was denied.
"[If we allow this], we’re saying that a company like D.R. Horton can make those exceptions, but with the little guy with an individual driveway, we’re not going to allow that," Mann said.
Mike Miller, an owner of property at the site, said the developers decided to go forward with affordable housing because it is needed. Having 28 affordable housing units and 80 percent open space is "almost an impossible combination," he said, attesting to the importance of the development.
Council member Roger Armstrong brought up several concerns with the exceptions, saying that comparing the Discovery zone to a resort or town center zone is not legitimate.
"A special exception should be special. There should be some overriding, unique issue that we have to deal with," Armstrong said. "We do have a development code. We’re going to stick with the development code – that’s what makes it fair."
The posted speed limit in the community on the steeper-grade roads would be 15 mph, and Lent said the community would be "walkable" when others brought up concerns over child safety with proximity to roads.
Council member Chris Robinson said that when he was on the Council when the project was approved in 2011, he assumed that the 105 units would fit in the bubbles specified and conform to code.
"I’m frustrated that we’re at this point of now getting all of these additional exceptions when we don’t have that much time to review this," Robinson said. "A lot of the special exceptions are predicated on the county owning the roads."
The Council did not make a decision on the special exceptions and will hold another public hearing on Dec. 4. A meeting with service providers such as Questar Gas and Mountain Regional Water will be held on Monday to analyze the design of the development further, according to Summit County Planner Amir Caus.
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