From Darkness To Light

21 Sep 2015

3 acres that Southern Ute Growth Fund wants in exchange for undetermined land in 3 springs

Posted by Adam Howell

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Durango’s Natural Lands Board approved in concept a request of the Southern Ute Tribe’s Real Estate Growth Fund to trade 3 acres of open space lands owned by the City in exchange for 3 undetermined acres of contiguous open space lands owned by the Growth Fund.

3 acres that So Ute Growth Fund wantsIf the City Council agrees with the request, officials with the Growth Fund are hoping that the 3 acres off of Wilson Gulch Drive in Three Springs can be used as a new site for some affordable housing units.

The motion that the Natural Lands board approved was to relinquish the 3.1 acre Southern Open Space parcel adjacent to the wetlands in exchange for 3 acres somewhere else, provided that there is no reduction in the overall open space commitment of the overall Three Springs area, that the open space dedication is as large and contiguous as possible, and that it is agreed upon by the City and the developer, said Board Chairman Steve Whiteman.

Whiteman, who made the motion, is the Wildlife Division Head for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

In the end, this blogger was the only board member to vote against the proposal Sept. 21st, given the confusion surrounding the unknown status of what land the City would be acquiring.

Even though the Natural Lands Board approved the concept, it will still require an extensive public review process before the final exchange is approved.

“What it requires is a support from a board such as yours,” said Patrick Vaughn, President of GF Properties Group, LLC. “And then we would start through the replanning process, removing this 3.1 acres from the open space–and that does require City Council as well as Planning Commission action.”

Some board members were concerned about the possibility of the developer getting boxed into a situation where the land is used for something other than affordable housing.

In response, a planning manager with the Growth Fund stated that if they obtained the land, there would be no guarantee that the land would indeed be used for affordable housing.

“I could see a scenario where the RHA can’t get the tax credit from Colorado Housing Finance Authority for ten years, and nothing can get built while the land may be available but the tax credits might not, and in the meantime, the city may see a retailer that will generate sales tax revenue that benefits open space as well as others,” said Kurt Prinslow, the Planning Manager for the Growth Fund Real Estate Group. “Those scenarios happen, you just can’t predict the future. My hope is that we can figure this thing out for affordable housing, and make that dedication, because I think it just makes sense.”

Historically, the open space that the Growth Fund is seeking to acquire from the City was previously owned by the Growth Fund (GRVP, LLC), before being dedicated to the City with the name Southern Open Space on 6/29/2006 under the title Three Springs Village 1 Filing 2A, according to Durango’s Assistant Community Development Director Kevin Hall.

The City’s 3 acres in question is part of a “wetlands preserve” area that was set up to compensate for wetland impacts from the original Three Springs development. Apparently, the site dried out over time as development increased and irrigated fields were no longer irrigated. The loss (drying up) of wetlands on the property was compensated through the purchase of wetland credits from a wetland bank (a place where wetlands have been created for sale as credits).

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