I wake up each day torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. It makes it hard to plan my day.

:: E. B. White

Sanders Ranch: A New Town Shot Down

Dramatically escalating land values make every Rocky Mountain resort town a prime target for real estate developers. In 2000, an out of state developer proposed a new town on 280 acres of classic Colorado ranchland dominated by views of 12,953-foot Mount Sopris and almost exactly halfway between the communities of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. Public Counsel organized testimony by land use experts and attorneys which — along with massive public protest — defeated the proposal.

© Jonathan Kloberdanz

In 2000, developer George Hanlon proposed a new town on 280 acre of classic Colorado ranchland, dominated by views of 12,953-foot Mount Sopris and almost exactly halfway between the communities of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. Sanders Ranch would become home to 561 new residences, a community center, 300,000 square feet of retail, and the first freeway-style overpass on Highway 82 as it heads toward Aspen and Independence Pass.

The proposal already had preliminary plan approval in 1998 on a 4 to 3 vote from the Garfield County Planning & Zonging Commission. But as the day for final County approval or denial approached, opposition grew like a range fire from neighborhood, environmental and community groups. The Town Councils of Glenwood and Carbondale weighed in against such sprawl as did scores of professionals, business leaders, and other ranchers.

Contacted on short notice by Roaring Crystal Alliance leaders, Public Counsel was asked to provide critical legal analysis of the voluminous PUD proposal and to insure that a strong record was made at the BOCC public hearing which would support denial should the developer file suit. Public Counsel recruited and hired nationally prominent land use attorney Gerald Dahl, then a partner at the Denver law firm of Gorsuch Kirgis, who mobilized quickly since the assignment required ’round-the-clock work.

At the BOCC public hearing, Mr. Dahl’s presentation was flawless, and following 14 hours of testimony, the Board unanimously denied PUD approval to Sanders Ranch. The Board heard testimony from 155 of the over 500 folk who attended the session. And 212 letters, emails and transcribed phone calls were entered as citizens’ exhibits opposing the project. In the end, the PUD was determined not to conform with the Garfield County Comprehensive Plan and judged to have disastrous impacts on the surrounding rural area. Because the record supporting denial was so strong, no suit against the County ever materialized.

Public Counsel acknowledges that funding for this project has been generously provided by hundreds of Roaring Fork Valley citizens and contributors.


© David Hiser


© Burnie Arndt


© Gino Hollander