Uintah Bluffs gets new rejection from City Planning

       The Uintah Bluffs duplex proposal is still far from the construction stage, as revealed in a letter sent last week to the developer's consulting engineer from James Mayerl of City Planning.
       “There are still several significant issues that need to be addressed with this application,” summarizes the letter, before going into details. “This includes conformance with Hillside Overlay zone requirements, compliance with non-use variance review criteria, geologic hazard requirements and design requirements.” Mayerl pledges staff opposition if the proposal were to go to Planning Commission at this time.
       The letter is the second from City Planning raising major issues since the developer (Matt Craddock of Craddock Companies, through his consulting engineer, Leigh Whitehead & Associates) submitted a plan last December for a duplex project on a 13-acre portion of the ridge above Bristol Elementary School. The original request was for 57 units (on 28 lots for duplexes and one for a house). The latter lot has since been omitted from the plan. However, Mayerl, whose first letter called for “substantial revisions” to the plan, said recently, in response to a reporter's question, “I do not consider that [the one-lot reduction] to be a substantial revision to the plan.”
       Asked what he will do now, Craddock said he has no answer yet. “I will need to further review these comments with the engineer and partners in order to determine what the appropriate action will be,” he wrote in an e-mail.
       A key issue is building on slopes of 25 percent or greater. Mayerl's first letter in January noted that a number of the proposed lots (he has since estimated about 30) have such slopes. Craddock Companies responded in July with a request for a non-use variance that would waive the 25 percent rule. His justification, he wrote, was that “the property has extraordinary or exceptional physical conditions” in which “the only buildable areas have some limited slopes that exceed 25 percent.” The proposal would expand some sites “out into the 25 percent slope areas with engineered, stabilized terraces [that] will define a useable, controllable human-oriented area of use and naturally limit the future intrusion of fencing, patios, decks and such into unstabilized slope areas.” Also, Craddock's justification states that the project meets city policies encouraging infill development, and “the requested development is well within the standards set forth in the Hillside Area Overlay itself.”
       Mayerl's letter rejected these arguments, stating that “the intent of the Hillside overlay zone is to work with the land and avoid steep slopes… Slopes greater than 25 percent are recognized by the code as having very high potential for development difficulty and severe hazard potential… Small intrusions into those areas could be allowed with a variance, but not when the request is for 3.9 acres of land… There is reasonable use of the property without granting a variance. Staff will recommend denial of the variance when/if the request goes to the Planning Commission.”
       The new Mayerl letter contains new or updated comments from other departments or consulting entities. These include the Fire Department, which disapproves the proposed type of turnaround at the dead-end of the single road through the development; the Colorado Geological Survey, which according to Mayerl has raised questions about “long term stability and maintenance responsibility of the design”; and the street width (24 feet on a public street instead of 30 on a private one).
       Under the plans, vehicles would access the Uintah Bluffs homes from an access road that would go east to the property from Manitou Boulevard. To accommodate hikers who use the ridge area now, a trailhead with parking would be provided off that street, west of the city water tower, and a trail easement would be provided between the ridge and Bristol Park.

Westside Pioneer article