After temporarily halting the Sterling Ranch development once already, the Chatfield Community Association has filed yet another legal challenge against the development’s approval, asking the district court in Douglas County to once again review the county commissioners’ July decision to approve the development.
The homeowners’ group — filing the appeal under Rule 106, which allows for groups to appeal a governing body’s ruling on a development — has stated that the county commissioners demonstrated an “abuse of discretion” and “acted outside their jurisdiction and authority” by approving the development on July 10.
The suit, similar to the 2011 challenge, argues that Sterling Ranch still does not have an adequate water supply to move forward with its development and also states that the commissioners acted on an application that was not pending, but closed, when they approved it earlier this summer.
According to County Attorney Lance Ingalls, there is a difference in how the Chatfield group read Judge Paul King’s order and how the county interpreted it.
“Judge King said specifically that it was within the discretion of the county what to do next,” Ingalls said. “The county feels it has been in compliance all along.”
After King determined in 2012 that the development had not demonstrated an adequate water supply in its 2011 application, the county commissioners lobbied the state legislature to pass SB-258, which clarified what they believed to be true already that a developer doesn’t have to show water adequacy for an entire development up front, but that the developer can demonstrate it in phases throughout the process.
This irked the Chatfield group, which stated in its recent filing that the commissioners, by “engaging a paid lobbyist to enact legislative changes intended to aid the applicant,” have acted in a biased manner.
“We pursued those changes because at the end of the day we have many applications in addition to Sterling Ranch and we simply need to know what our legal requirements are for making these determinations,” Ingalls said. “We did not do so at the request of Sterling Ranch and we stand by the clarifications we got.
“It is mandatory that a local government determines an adequate water supply before the build-out of a project, but local governments have the discretion as to when to make that determination.”
And while the county still has not ruled whether Sterling Ranch has an adequate water supply to proceed with the first phase of its development, that application is expected to be filed soon when Sterling Ranch submits its sketch plan to the county.
The sketch plan, which will be followed by a preliminary plat filing and a final plat filing, is the first of three hoops Sterling Ranch needs to jump through before breaking ground, something the developer hopes to do later this year.
“I don’t see there being any legitimacy to the complaint,” said Sterling Ranch attorney Wayne Foreman. “It challenges a process that was exhausted.”
Attempts to reach Chatfield attorney James Kreutz and homeowner’s association vice president Dennis Larratt were unsuccessful at press time.