Bellvue events center, farm-to-glass distillery in the works

Kati Zybko and her boyfriend, Zach Weakland, share a vision. The pair, who have been partners for five years, are the newest residents at a five-acre farm, 5129 CR 50E in Bellvue.

When Zybko was 13, her single mother started a residential landscaping business in Fort Collins and mother and daughter worked together to make it successful. “I always wanted chickens and goats but Mom said we didn’t have time to care for them,” Zybko said. As a conservation biology major at Colorado State University, Zybko built a chicken coop in her back yard. Four years ago she and Weakland, who as a CSU natural resources graduate has values that parallel Zybko’s, got the first “legal” goats in Fort Collins. They turn the goats’ milk into yogurt, cheese and caramels.

Until a couple of months ago, they housed their chickens and goats on a cramped property close to CSU. “We were looking for a place when the opportunity to move here came up,” Zybko said.

Now known as Sunnyside Farm, New Belgium Brewing Company founder and former owner, Jeff Lebesch, purchased the 5-acre farm at the base of Pleasant Valley and agreed to lease it to Zybko and Weakland. The couple have now added a bee hive to their goat and chicken operations and have planted a large vegetable garden.

The details of their business plan are set down in a proposal submitted April 9 to the Larimer County Planning Department. “Our primary use of this property is as a working farm in the Forest Farm style as explained in Mark Sheppard’s book, Restoration Agriculture,” Zybko said. Because it will take several years for the farm to mature and become profitable, Zybko and Weakland propose to establish a coffee/tea shop, community hall/events center, and “The Bingham Still,” where fruit and honey grown on site will be used to produce small batches of liquor available for sale and to be used during events at the community hall.

The coffee/tea shop will feature locally baked goods, sandwiches and other food items. Pick-your-own flowers and products from the farm will be sold at an indoor market stand.
The community hall will provide a venue for weddings, farm-to-table meals and other events. The coffee shop will use the same facilities but at different times of the day.

Zybko and Weakland are committed to respecting the rural nature of the land, serving the needs of the community and being good neighbors. “We totally understand why neighbors have some concerns,” Zybko said. “The last thing we want to do is destroy the rural nature of the place. We live on the property and we place a high value on privacy. We will never allow the place to become crowded. No amount of income will ever be worth sacrificing the quiet rural atmosphere. Our intention is to make it more beautiful and to share it with other people.”

There will be no outdoor sound system and the community hall and coffee shop will not be visible from neighboring homes. The facilities will be open year-round with about 40 customers per day anticipated during the summer and far fewer during the winter. Planned coffee shop and market stand hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Events will close by 9 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There will no more than 125 people at any event.

The existing garage will be enlarged, a shed will be converted into a bridal preparation room, the driveway will be widened, and a greenhouse will be added. Parking will be on the property.

Former owners Roy and Mary Kahler, now residents of LaPorte, will watch with interest as their home of 41 years is transformed. “It’s going to be exciting to see what the place is going to be like in three years,” Mary said.

Faithful stewards of their property for many years, the Kahlers say it was time to let it go and they have no regrets. “I’m just thankful I don’t have to do all that work any more,” Roy said.

Zybko and Weakland plan to create a peaceful destination for the community and for visitors to enjoy delicious, locally-grown or sourced foods and drink, and experience a great view of the surrounding hills and mountains at a beautifully landscaped, productive farm.

“We will go out of our way to be sensitive and cooperate with our neighbors and the community’s needs and concerns. We are striving for this to be a place that benefits the community of Bellvue and Northern Colorado as a whole,” Zybko said.

Support Northern Colorado Journalism

Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.

BONUS - Donors get a link in their receipt to sign up for our once-per-week instant text messaging alert. Get your e-copy of North Forty News the moment it is released!

Click to Donate

1 Comment

  1. BHFletterhead2.jpg

    Dear Editor,

    Our community is disappointed in your coverage of the recently submitted Barn at Sunny Side Farm (BASS) proposal in the North Forty News. The Bellvue Historic Foundation (BHF) is a citizen’s group from Bellvue who has worked for many years to document and protect the historical resources of Pleasant Valley. In past years, we have enjoyed working with the North Forty News to responsibly report on activities in Bellvue which reflect this community’s shared goals of historic preservation, among others. Tens of thousands of visitors enjoy the intact rural landscape of Bellvue each year. Much about why they visit is threatened with BASS. We hope you will publish this letter to clarify what could be perceived as shortcomings in your articles about BASS to date.

    The North Forty News’ recent reporting on the Barn at Sunny Side Farm fails to mention serious concerns raised over the lack of infrastructure available in Bellvue/Pleasant Valley, and disruption required to bring sufficient infrastructure and customers to the facility to be feasible as a commercial enterprise. Your coverage seems to promote such activity adjacent to the “town” of Bellvue. This in direct conflict with the opinion of Larimer County, who in their June 5th Sketch Plan Review report, deemed the proposal “incompatible with the neighborhood.” Furthermore, reviewing agencies, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Poudre Fire Authority, have raised serious concerns about the scale and impacts of the proposal. Also attached to the recently released Sketch Plan Review were approximately 100 pages of letters from community residents giving comment on the BASS proposal and it’s impact on Bellvue. None of these letters were in support of this proposal.

    We are concerned that the North Forty News has not performed adequate investigation regarding the full extent of the historic and natural resources in the area of BASS, and factual data about how limited infrastructure is in Bellvue to support such a large commercial venture. The BASS proposal as submitted would require extensive road work, expansion of water lines, potentially extending from south of Bellvue town, all the way to Watson Lake in order to achieve required fire flows, and also, there is no sewer in Bellvue. The BASS property (4.7 acres) already contains 3 residences, 2 of which are generated from a nonconforming rental, all serviced on septic. Some of the structures on the property are on CDW owned land. The majority of the structures on the property are within the 100’ setback from property lines and wetlands which exist on the western boundary of the property. Panther Creek on the northwest corner of the site floods regularly. Other area farmers are not entitled to special treatment to allow extensive development based on septic systems or within wetlands and floodplains from Larimer County. Bellvue is an intact agricultural community with many successful farmers living here. Farming does not require a retail operation to be successful, as demonstrated by others who do so on the bottom of Pleasant Valley.

    If the Barn at Sunny Side were to proceed with an appropriate amount of parking spaces for it’s projected occupant load, requiring at least 60 parking spaces and dual egress for fire trucks/guests, turnarounds on site, widening CR 50C and so on, it is probable that the increased developed area would substantially impair and disturb the historic view enjoyed from the Scenic Overlook at the top of Bingham Hill Road. Increased development in Pleasant Valley will impact the roads in the area, creating a need for widening or straightening which would tremendously alter the views within the proposed Historic Rural District, potentially impairing it’s eligibility and this goal that the residents of Bellvue have donated time and money towards for almost 10 years. Details on these goals and studies has been provided by the North Forty News previously.

    Also, we’d like to clarify that the BHF position on the BASS proposal is that it is not compatible with the shared goals and vision of this community. At our weekly meetings, this is our position. Our next meeting will be June 25th at the Grange beginning at 6:30 pm.

    In conclusion, we urge the Applicants and Property Owner to work with this community in a peaceful and low-impact partnership. Please do not go forward with this proposal, or any other plans to commercialize Bellvue.

    Thank you Editor, for your consideration of our concerns.


    Neal Spencer
    Bellvue Historic Foundation, member

Comments are closed.