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A plea by the developer of an area of Chaffee County land along CR 306 for a planned development called Alpine West finally yielded a response last week, when Buena Vista Trustees agreed to supply a letter of support for the purchase of 48 water augmentation certificates from the Arkansas Water Conservancy, paid for by the developer. Staff requested board direction on whether and how to move forward in negotiating a water service agreement with Alpine West. After nearly two hours of discussion, the board agreed.

In December 2021, Alpine West (formerly known as Stackhaus LLC), owned by Alex Telthorst, submitted a petition for annexation of 15750 CR 306 along with a request to zone the property R-3 High-Density Residential in order to build a development of 113 primary units (plus ADUs potentially) including single-family attached and detached as well as multi-family apartment units.

“I intentionally bought something that is adjacent to water, sewer, it’s inside the three-mile plan, it’s close-in, it is a medium density project in the area of desired growth — keeping the country–country, and town — town,” said Telthorst.

The Alpine West Major Planned Subdivision Development plan may still have more changes to it before the hearing, continued to Oct. 18.

Ultimately the annexation did not go through, though it is adjacent to municipal services and it is within the three-mile development area.

Telthorst then took the major subdivision development to Chaffee County Planning and Zoning for review. The sketch plan laid out a conceptual subdivision on a 7.8 acre parcel currently zoned residential. The proposal of a high-density residential development would be only 1.3 miles from downtown Buena Vista. The developer says he has worked with the Chaffee Housing Trust to create permanently-affordable units within the development for the county’s workforce.

The Chaffee Board of County Commissioners approved it to move ahead in October, 2022, with some conditions, including that it reach an agreement from the BV Trustees to proceed with the water augmentation certificates.

“What I am hearing is the town has provided a direction that you do want to accept Upper Ark Water augmentation certificates somehow,” said Town Administrator Lisa Parnell-Rowe.

The task at hand was approval to move forward on a nonbinding Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) allowing the town to develop an acceptable method of receiving the water augmentation certificates. Town Attorney Jeff Parker confirmed that the town could allow the assignment of the water certificates purchased by the developer, or take a fee in lieu of water rights from the developer to pay for the augmentation certificates..

The key point: the developer needed to know that the property is capable of being served by Buena Vista water, and in return, it can provide much-needed housing in a neighborhood built to town standards, with sidewalks and streets, that at some point could be considered for town annexation.

Telthorst said he has “worked with Crabtree [Group, Inc.] and my engineering team; we kicked this back and forth to comply with the 2021 Master Resource plan for water … My ask is if you think this is something you’re going to be able to support, tell me, so I can keep the engineers going.” He added that it had been his preference to have the land annexed to provide tax base to the town, but that pressure from five landowners had prevented that from happening.

“The county can require a pre-annexation agreement – it has language that defines who can ask for that annexation in the future,” said Development Director Joseph Teipel. “Do we want to give him a nonbinding letter that if this works out and you get the water augmentation certificates … when that happens, then it would be our decision  – we owe that to the county anyway.”

Town Finance Director Phillip Puckett reminded the trustees that “what was included in the annexation agreement – which if it remains in the county, the town doesn’t collect the property tax, but we do collect water fees, but we don’t carry the burden for street maintenance, fire protection or law enforcement … however these are additional residents, and our primary income is sales tax.”

“We’ve got a request for a water agreement… along with supplying water, the town could set a future requirement that the development be annexed into town,” added Teipel. “If we’re open to water certificates, we need to decide what they look like,” he added. “We don’t know today, but we have to know by the time we sign any water agreement.”

“The letter is nonbinding, to provide some written documentation of the direction we’re heading in,” said Parker.

“We can’t keep Alex hanging, we should chart a course,” said Mayor Libby Fay.

“Our collective vision for the town, this project, even though it’s a county project now, it checks a lot of boxes for our town,” said Trustee Devon Rowe. “It does house more people, that’s a benefit – workforce housing, customers for a more vibrant year-round economy here. It would support a lot of people trying to stay here. I like this project and I support it … it’s worth noting that developers don’t always do this – bring things that we need here in town.”

After much discussion, and questions that at times raised issues of long-term policy, and other times got down into the weeds on details that can’t yet be known, the Board of Trustees agreed to support a nonbinding letter of support to allow the developer to continue his work toward a recommendation.

Parnell-Rowe made the motion to direct staff to create a letter dated May 5, 2023 to support the provision of water to the Alpine West development and based on the county’s conditions to execute an MOU with Upper Ark Water Conservancy to provide the water augmentation certificates, plus execute an extraterritorial water agreement. Trustee Sue Cobb seconded it and it passed unanimously.