Observatory property gets green light for development

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By Vicky Gits

The old Observatory property, which longtime Evergreen residents remember as the home of a charming café-saloon with a retractable roof, has been platted for three large lots suitable for commercial development.

Located across the highway from the El Rancho restaurant, the ramshackle shell of the former nightspot is one of Evergreen’s prominent eyesores.

For the last two years, the Phoenix-based owners have been laying the groundwork for development on the triangular-shaped 7-acre parcel.

The restaurant/wine shop/gas station has been abandoned for about 10 years, said Cam Goodman, proprietor of the El Rancho Trading Post.

“We used to go over there after work because it was a late-night place,” Goodman said.

Paul and Donna McEncroe, longtime owners of the El Rancho restaurant, used to own the Observatory, and their son, Andy, ran the liquor store.

The county commissioners approved a preliminary plat Feb. 24 that included three build-able lots and one reserved for storm drainage.

“It had a retractable roof so you could see the stars at night,” Goodman said. She also remembers an outdoor deck.

The property northwest of the intersection of U.S. 40 and Rainbow Hill Road has been designated for commercial development since the county was originally zoned.

The zoning allows for a variety of commercial uses, including restaurant, retail, banks and professional offices and businesses, or as much as 28,800 square feet of lease-able area.

No commercial buildings have been proposed for the site so far. Since the plat has been approved, any one of the lots can be sold separately.

The key to establishing the property as a marketable entity was cleaning up the old gasoline tanks and getting accepted into the El Rancho Metropolitan District, said real estate broker Barbara Wingate of ReMax Alliance.

Records indicate three underground fuel tanks have been removed from the site, complying with state requirements, and there has been no leaking of any fuel tanks on the property, according to a memo by planner Ross Klopf with Jefferson County.