A study shows the proposed youth treatment center at Singin River Ranch could generate about 100 one-way trips per day, or 39,288 annually, on Upper Bear Creek Road and the gravel road that leads to the ranch. The study was conducted on behalf of a group that is suing over easement violations against the ranchs occupant.
The attorney for Lost and Found Inc., which has a contract to buy the ranch, described the traffic study as bogus. A hearing on the matter will be held Aug. 21 in Georgetown.
Lost and Found wants to establish a year-round residential treatment facility for 60 teens. Other uses include staff housing, family housing, camping, RV parking, dining hall, classrooms, offices, chapel and storage sheds.
The study by Aldridge Transportation Consultants of Littleton on behalf of the law firm representing a homeowners group says the traffic count will be about 10 times higher than previously calculated by a consultant for Lost and Found.
(The church camp) was no problem at all, said Mary Semcken, one of the homeowners who lives near the former retreat. They would bus the people in and out, and it was only about 10 weekends every summer.
I never ever imagined that something like this could ever have been proposed for here, said Semcken, as she walked along the gravel road that crosses her property and leads to Singin River Ranch.
(Lost and Found) will never get this easement, Semcken vowed.
She contends the traffic from the ranch already caused the road to wash out last spring and that a homeowner had to repair it at their own expense.
In the background is spectacular luxury-home property that backs up onto a wildlife preserve, has views of Mount Evans, rock outcroppings and access to Bear Creek fishing. Willow bushes, lush meadows and ponderosa pine abound.
The route to the ranch follows Upper Bear Creek Road, which is paved, for about 6 miles to the intersection of Yankee Creek Road. Singin River Ranch Road branches off to the left, and Upper Bear continues west into the Arapaho National Forest.
The Singing River Ranch road is dirt and gravel, about half a mile long and crosses the Semckens property before reaching the ranch-owned property, where it dead-ends.
Semcken is one of five property owners contesting the legality of the proposed year-round residential youth center, saying they dont want the road paved, widened and improved, among other things. Their lawsuit filed in Clear Creek County District Court in September claims $3 million in damages based on easement violations, creation of a public nuisance and trespassing.
So far the homeowners and other members of the Evergreen Preservation Association have spent about $150,000 on legal fees, Semcken said. (The association includes interested parties who are not among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Lost and Found.)
The property is zoned mountain residential, but for a time was operating as a legal nonconforming use as a church camp, which closed in 2003. Clear Creek County Planning Director Fred Rollenhagen said he could not comment on the transportation study until he finished his report on the matter, probably by the end of this week.
Setting legal limits
Semcken and the other landowners filed the lawsuit to establish that the easement serving Singin River Ranch is limited to the historic agricultural or residential uses, attorney Jim Cage, of Moye, White in Denver, says in a letter to the Clear Creek County planning department.
The traffic to Singin River Ranch Road will be at least 10 times greater than Lost and Found previously represented to the county in excess of 39,000 trips per year. Lost and Found only has an easement for the residential use of the road. It does not have legal right to expand and change the usage of this private road, Cage says in a e-mail.
The recent traffic study is based on depositions from several officials of Lost and Found Inc., the Lakewood-based ministry that has a contract to buy the land. (The legality of that contract is contested in a separate lawsuit.)
The depositions revealed that from 18 to 28 staffers are expected to visit the ranch on a daily basis, in addition to the live-in employees, Cage said. The daytime employees alone will generate about 56 trips daily, according to the Aldridge report.
or public highway?
All I can say is, the basis for the results that are reported in the traffic study are completely bogus, said Larry Hobbs of Conifer, the attorney for Lost and Found. In prior years and in 2003, the ranch was open for business 365 days a year, and it was used extensively in the summertime by campers.
Hobbs maintains the the road is not an easement but has been a public highway for 20 years. If the county so requires, Lost and Found could be entitled to widen the road, he maintained.
The court might choose to widen the easement, finding it would not increase the burden on Semcken and that changes in the use of the SRR property over the last 80 years were foreseeable at the time the easement was established, Hobbs says in a memo supplied to the Canyon Courier.
SSR road has been used by the public in such numbers as required and for such purposes as required in excess of 40 years. The Cage clients, like many newcomers to the mountains who just got off the bus, all of a sudden think they can keep others away. It is shameful, Hobbs memo said.
Seasonal or year-round?
Transportation consultant John Aldridge says the original estimate was based on the average daily trips for a campground operating only 66 days in a season, with 20 daily workers, generating an average of 40 one-way trips each day. It didnt include 600 trips required for a projected 300 sheriffs calls.
The youth center proposal is moving into the final stages of the battle to win county approval for a rezoning application. The next important date is Aug. 21, when the subject comes up for a long-awaited hearing before the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Georgetown Community School Gymnasium, 504 Fourth St. The last significant date in was Dec. 13, 2006, when the Clear Creek County Planning Commission recommended against the rezoning.