Bingham Hill event center back from the dead

This could be the year that Randy and Sheryl Pope finally open their Bingham Hill property to brides and grooms looking for a scenic mountain venue for their wedding. Provided, of course, that everyone follows the two dozen or so rules governing those events.

On Dec. 3, the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners approved the Popes’ request to be allowed to hold 22 celebratory events per calendar year at 3924 Bingham Hill Road — with conditions. Commissioners Lew Gaiter III and Steve Johnson both voted in favor of the request, which also includes eight seasonal camp sessions that can be held between April and September. (Commissioner Tom Donnelly recused himself from the hearing citing a potential conflict of interest because the Pope family had recently hired Donnelly’s wife’s employer on an unrelated matter.)

The commissioners also voted to allow the Popes to place a 4-foot-square sign on Bingham Hill Road on the day of any event to direct guests to the property.

The approval closes the latest chapter in a long-running saga with more twists and turns than a Dickens novel. A community hall/events center on the site has been proposed, rejected, modified, approved, briefly in business as The Preserve at Bingham Hill before its permit was revoked for violations of its conditions, reconfigured, re-proposed, re-rejected, remodified, re-reviewed and now reapproved.

The LaPorte Area Planning Advisory Commission had recommended rejecting this latest special review back in August. The Larimer County Planning Commission recommended allowing the events and the camps but rejected the off-premise signage in September. The commissioners held a land-use hearing on the issue on Oct. 15, but tabled the discussion and a final decision until December. The delay was to give Planning Department staff time to craft conditions that could make the project work for both the Popes and their neighbors, who have long maintained that an event center is incompatible with the rural character of the area.

The result was a list of conditions under which celebratory events such as weddings can be held on the property, including:
• Of the 22 events allowed, only six can have outdoor activities in addition to the actual ceremony, and only one of those can be held between April 1 and Sept. 30.
• No more than two celebratory events can occur within a 30-day period.
• All activity related to any event on the property is limited to between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., with all outdoor activity to end at 7 p.m.
• The use of sound amplification – voice or music – for outdoor events can last for only two hours and must end at 7 p.m.
• Noise levels must not exceed 75 decibels at a distance of 3 feet from any outdoor speakers.
• To contain noise during indoor events, the doors to the community hall must remain closed during those events.
• Food must be served inside for both indoor-only and outdoor events.
• Once automatic fire-suppression sprinklers are installed in the community hall, all events will be limited to 150 invited guests and a total of 170 individuals, including service personnel. Until then, fire code limits occupancy to 99.
• All vehicles, including delivery vehicles, must park in the 62-space lot, which will have three spaces reserved for handicap access.
• A certified security officer must be on site to monitor and report on the operations and functions at all events.
• No alternative forms of transportation, including hot-air balloons or helicopters, are allowed to transport people to or from events.

If the Popes do not comply with any of the conditions, the county can revoke its approval for any more events to be held.

“The key to making this work is for (the Popes) to operate within the conditions set forth,” said senior planner Matt Lafferty, who has worked on the Bingham Hill project since it was first proposed in 2009. “It’s not up to the neighbors to hold them to what they’ve committed to.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated 1/25/13 to reflect the corrected quote from Matt Lafferty, contained in the last sentence.

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