Francis mulls a 600-acre annexation |

Francis mulls a 600-acre annexation

150-unit project is one of a handful of large developments in East Side city

Francis is contemplating expanding by nearly 600 acres, with the city’s planning commission taking an important step last week in recommending the City Council approve an annexation proposal.

The Hidden Meadow Ranch annexation petition calls for 579 acres west of the city and south of Lambert Lane to be annexed into its borders to build a 150-unit subdivision.

A concept plan calls for 102 smaller single-family lots, each less than an acre in size, as well as 48 townhomes. More than 80% of the land would be held as open space and placed into a conservation easement, which would prevent future development, according to a city report that accompanied the public hearing.

Francis City Planner Katie Henneuse said the planning commission voted to recommend the project to the City Council, which will hear it Oct. 28.

She said the townhome aspect of the proposal was not popular with members of the public who commented at the hearing last Thursday. The townhomes would be reserved for those making 80% or less of the area’s median income, she said.

The developers are requesting a zoning designation that would bestow one housing unit for every two acres, meaning the 580 acres could hold about 290 units. The so-called AG-2 zone is the lowest-density zone in the city, according to the report.

Henneuse said the amount of open space included in the project would also entitle it to a “density bonus” of additional housing units.

She noted, however, that the developers are asking for far fewer housing units than allowed by code, even without the additional incentivized development.

The land is called Hidden Meadow Ranch for a reason, Francis Mayor Byron Ames indicated when discussing the project this spring.

“It’s literally hidden,” he said. “… This piece of land, you can’t really see it in other places of town unless you’re up in the air.”

Henneuse said one of the chief benefits of the proposal is that it clusters development on lower elevations and keeps the hillsides free from homes, preserving the view.

The staff report says other benefits include the developer deeding land to the city for future water infrastructure projects, including a well, as well as a four-mile trail system and trailhead.

The report also says potential negative impacts include additional stress on the city’s infrastructure, including its roads and sewer and water systems.

“Residential development will likely occur on these parcels even if Francis elects not to annex this land,” the staff report states. “The annexation was discussed with the Summit County Community Development Director, and he indicated that Summit County would likely allow development of the land at similar densities. It may be in the city’s best interest to approve the annexation and have more control over how the land is developed.”

The project would join three other notable developments in Francis that are at various levels of completion.

Stewart Ranches, which includes 146 housing units on 131 acres, is one of the furthest along and could start selling lots soon, Henneuse said.

Hart Crossing, 69 units on 60 acres, was approved recently and will come back through the city’s approval process for specific aspects of the plan, Henneuse said.

And Francis Commons, which calls for 99 units, was granted its zoning request and concept plan approval in May.

“It could be a busy summer next year in Francis,” Henneuse said.

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