There was little harmony in the LaPorte Area Planning Advisory Committee’s latest review of an events center proposed on Bingham Hill.
The committee, in a 6-2 vote with one abstention, again recommended rejection of the community hall proposed by Sheryl and Randy Pope on their property a half-mile west of the intersection with Overland Trail.
Despite passionate pleas by Randy Pope, the committee at its Aug. 21 meeting reaffirmed its finding that the commercial community hall was hopelessly out of harmony with the rural character of the surrounding area.
The committee’s recommendation of incompatibility will accompany the proposal when it again goes before the county planning commission for review. Ultimately it will go before the county commissioners, who will render the final verdict.
In the latest in a long-running series of proposals, the Popes asked for permission to host a maximum of 22 wedding or celebration events with a maximum of 150 guests at each event on their property at 3924 Bingham Hill Road. This is a reduction from the previously proposed 33 events.
Despite the changes, committee member Andre Duval said, “I still don’t believe they’re compatible in the neighborhood (where) they live.”
But Pope portrayed opponents as knee-jerk naysayers who will oppose any proposal regardless of its merits.
“Long story short, there just isn’t anything that will be acceptable,” he said. “Bottom line, we’re on opposite sides of the table, have been from the get-go.”
He characterized the most recent proposal as “the end of the cookie jar” with $450,000 invested in the 10 acres now in foreclosure. “We’re sitting here with a white elephant we can’t use (unless the proposal is approved),” Pope said.
While he said this is probably his last attempt at gaining approval for The Preserve at Bingham Hill, Pope did not rule out returning with yet another proposal. “I don’t give up easily, never have and never will,” he said.
The issue has a Byzantine history dating back a decade to the nonprofit summer basketball camps for girls organized by Pope.
The first proposal for an outdoor events center was opposed the LaPorte Area Planning Advisory Committee. The county planning commission then formally rejected the proposal. The county commissioners in February 2010 rejected the Popes’ appeal to the planning commission’s rejection.
That May, the commissioners approved the Popes’ request to offer up to 60 camp sessions with up to 25 outdoor tents each to house participants. At the same time, the commissioners separately approved the proposal for a community hall with a list of conditions.
Their special review use permit for the events center was revoked and the venue shuttered in December 2010, when neighbors complained that many of those conditions were being violated. Approval for the basketball camps remained in place, however.
Then in July 2011, The Popes submitted a new application for the events center, including a host of more stringent conditions. The county commissioners in November denied that proposal.
“This is basically the same thing you saw before with a reduction in the number of events,” Pope told the LaPorte advisory committee on Aug. 21.
In addition to holding fewer celebrations, and committing not to exceed the current Poudre Fire Authority capacity of 99 in the gymnasium until sprinklers are installed, the current proposal reduced the number of basketball camps to five from eight and eliminated seven business or corporate events.
Pope insisted that further reducing the activities would make the enterprise unprofitable.
The committee was however unpersuaded.
“Twenty-two weddings would not be acceptable for me up there or anybody else,” said committee member Ed Stoner.
“I have to ask how did it get this far,” exasperated committee member Carla Brookman said. “It’s over.”