LAPAC forwards Bingham Hill event center proposal to county commissioners

The small meeting room at the Water and Sewer Building on Overland Trail in LaPorte was overflowing Aug. 21 when the LaPorte Area Planning Advisory Committee met. Seats may have been hard to come by because of the single action item on the agenda: Whether to approve proposed changes to the land use permit for The Preserve at Bingham Hill event center.

Before a discussion of proposed changes to the land use permit, Matt Lafferty of the Larimer County Planning Department reviewed a history during which the owners, Randy and Sheryl Pope, have come before the County Commissioners several times since 2009. In December 2012, the commissioners approved a community hall on the property, with conditions. A total of 22 events were approved with no more than six events outdoors. Of the six outdoor events, only one was allowed per month between April 1 and Sept. 30 each year. The rest of the year, there could be no more than two events in a 30-day period.

An officer was required to be on site for events, and restrictions were placed on noise levels, number of guests and number of vehicles.

The Popes have applied for modifications, including permission to hold 22 events with no restrictions regarding indoor or outdoor locations. They’re also asking for permission to erect an off-site sign. They have agreed to add some parking spaces. In discussing the Popes’ request, Lafferty pointed out that the Boutique Center in LaPorte had recently been approved for 48 events and he saw no difference between the two. “The Preserve has met the county code,” he said. “The only difference is in the neighbors.” Lafferty said that based on the facts, The Preserve should be allowed to have 48 events.

Randy Pope spoke about the difficult process of seeking land use approvals and the impossibility of operating The Preserve boxed in by current restrictions. “We don’t understand why the neighbors are always trying to derail us,” he said. He explained that they have complied with requests to mitigate dust, minimize lighting and adjust the parking area to accommodate the neighbors.

During an opportunity for public comment, neighbors Ken Ecton, Sandy Walker, Liz Whitney, John Schmid and Joan Welsh Smith spoke in opposition to recommending the Popes’ request for modification citing the residential nature of the neighborhood and the failure of Randy Pope to adequately communicate with them. Two letters from neighbors who could not be present were also submitted.

In their discussion preceding a vote, LAPAC members discussed the importance of being fair, disregarding personality issues and emphasizing their role as an advisory committee charged only with making recommendations to the county commissioners. Susanne Cordery-Cotter expressed concern that the committee might be at risk for caving in to “squeaky wheels.”

A motion to approve the requested expansion and up the number of events to 48 by Susanne Cordery-Cotter received only one vote of approval. A motion by Ed Stoner to keep the current status received only a single nay vote. Stoner’s motion carried and will be communicated to the commissioners along with the reasons for LAPAC’s recommendation.

In a non-agenda item, Betty Bowman asked LAPAC to look at the proposed Atlas cell tower on County Road 56E. She questioned the need for its existence and asked about making some changes regarding set-backs should the application be approved. Nancy Easley also spoke against the cell tower, pointing out health issues from bouncing microwaves. Lafferty suggested that the women “make their voices known” to the county before the tower application comes up for review by the commissioners in September.

Samantha Mott of the county planning department announced that a land use plan for the Boutique Events Center in LaPorte had been approved. She also announced a public rural outreach meeting scheduled for Sept. 25 at Cache La Poudre Middle School.

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