Commissioners kill Bingham Hill events center for third time

On a 2-to-1 late in the night, the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners denied a special review request on Nov. 22 that would have allowed up to 33 weddings to take place each year at 3924 Bingham Hill Road near LaPorte.

Commissioner Steve Johnson and Chairman Tom Donnelly both felt the proposed use would be incompatible with the rural nature of the surrounding area and not in keeping with the county’s land-use code. Commissioner Lew Gaiter III voted to allow owners Randall and Sheryl Pope to reopen their previously approved community hall to corporate events and weddings.

This vote brings to an end a convoluted process that began more than two years ago, when the Popes first applied for permission to expand on the youth summer basketball camps they had been hosting since 2002 on their 10-acre property just west of Overland Trail. The parcel, which is zoned FA-Farming, has been owned by the Pope family since 1965; it also encompasses a residence and wholesale nursery operation.

That initial request to hold outside events on the property was opposed by the LaPorte Area Planning Commission and denied by the county Planning Commission in February 2010. A subsequent appeal to the commissioners was not upheld.

In May 2010, the commissioners approved a revamped special review request from the Popes. Donnelly voted with Gaiter for that proposal, which allowed 18 weddings the first year and 12 per year subsequently, along with 60 seasonal camp sessions that carried a separate approval.

However, in December, in response to complaints from neighbors, the commissioners found that the Popes had violated noise, occupancy and other conditions that had been placed on the approval and revoked it, shutting down the operation and cancelling events that had been booked.

In July of this year, after working with Larimer County planning staff, the Popes presented another new version of the application. It included 23 different conditions required to remain in compliance, including hiring a third party to monitor noise levels and event attendance. That proposal was supported by the LaPorte Area Planning Commission on a 4-to-3 vote in September but opposed by the county Planning Commission on a tie vote in October.

This proposal reduced the number of seasonal camps from 60 to five per year, but increased the potential number of weddings to 33 and corporate events to seven, for a total of 45 events per year. The weddings would have been limited to 130 guests and 12 service staff, for a total of 5,200 annual visitors to the property, and the parking lot would be sized to accommodate 62 cars.

Forty people spoke at Tuesday’s hearing, both for and against the request. Neighbors presented a petition that they claimed to show two-thirds of the property owners directly affected by the events center were opposed to allowing such a commercial use in a rural, residential neighborhood.

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