Developer touts proposed village's green features
By Gail Binkly
Environmentally responsible, pedestrian- friendly, and economically sustainable. That was the picture developer Dean Matthews painted of his proposed 792- lot “Tottenville” subdivision at an informational meeting Nov. 12 before a crowd of about 70.
Tottenville, which would be built on about 475 acres owned by Scott Tipton near Totten Reservoir east of Cortez, could become the second-largest municipality in Montezuma County if built out as planned. Consequently, it has sparked considerable interest and a number of concerns — among them, traffic and sewage treatment.
On Nov. 12, Matthews attempted to allay some of those concerns.
Tottenville is in a very preliminary stage, with a public hearing planned some time early next year before the county planning commission to see whether the board recommends approval of the zoning for such a high-density development. The county commissioners have the final say over whether the zoning is granted.
The county’s minimum lot size is normally three acres, but smaller lots are allowed in the Urban Services Zone, the zone Matthews and Tipton have applied for. The county land-use code says such zoning is for developments where urban services can be provided. However, Tottenville would not actually receive urban services. Its water would come from Montezuma Water Company and it would have its own sewage-treatment facility and lagoon.
Matthews said he envisions a five phase development that would be built over 15 or 20 years, with the first phase consisting of 106 units and costing about $25 million.
In addition to the estimated 792 single- family homes on lots ranging in size from a quarter-acre to an acre, the development would include commercial districts within each phase, designed so that all residents can easily walk to a café or grocery store.
Matthews said the commercial areas would be designed to service each neighborhood and to “bring outside traffic in” but that they would not harm Cortez’s downtown and would not compete with existing retailers.
Tottenville would have numerous environmentally friendly features, Matthews said:
• Passive solar design would be encouraged in all homes, with building envelopes designed to accommodate south-facing structures. And each house would be equipped with solar panels, which would be owned and maintained by a company of Matthews’. “We want sustainable, renewable energy. This is a responsible way of living,” Matthews said. “We feel this is the best way to develop.”
• Walking and cycling would be encouraged and vehicular traffic minimized. Houses would front on pedestrian/ bike pathways while the actual streets would be behind the homes.
• There would be 120 acres of dedicated open space and wildlife corridors throughout the development.
• Wastewater effluent would be treated and reused for irrigation. Some of the project’s other pluses, according to Matthews, are:
• About 15 percent of the houses would be “affordable and attainable,” at $100,000 to $300,000 apiece, and three lots per each phase would be dedicated to Habitat for Humanity.
• During construction, Tottenville would pump roughly $33 million per year into the local economy.
• It would concentrate growth onto “non-agricultural land bordering Cortez” rather than spread it throughout the county.
“I don’t see a down side to this project,” Matthews said. “If you heard about this project in Colorado Springs, most people would say, ‘Man, that’s a good project’.”
But the audience had concerns, one of which was traffic. Tottenville does not adjoin any highway. As it is planned now, access would be from the west, through an existing city subdivision and onto Eagle Drive, which empties onto Highway 145. A second main access would be via Fairway Drive (which comes out at the Go-fer Store) to the northwest corner of the property.
Matthews suggested the county should also build roads to allow access southward out of Tottenville onto Highway 160. “With the amount of money we’re paying in impact fees, I would hope you would push the county to build those roads to have those cars go south,” Matthews told the audience.
Deb Campbell, a Totten-area resident, asked how many daily vehicle trips the subdivision would generate, saying it could be in the thousands. “These people will bring cars,” she said. “They will not stay in this 475- acre paradise you’re creating.”
Matthews said he has not done a traffic impact study and does not believe the county’s land-use code requires one until after the zoning is approved.
Other audience members asked who would be able to afford to live in the subdivision. Matthews said the development would be marketed on a large scale and that many people coming to Tottenville would provide their own jobs by working out of their homes.
But people questioned whether many residents, particularly those living in the more affordable housing, could pay the homeowners’ association dues, when those dues would have to provide funding for operating the sewage-treatment facility, maintaining solar panels, maintaining roads, enforcing covenants, and running a K- 8 charter school that would likely be built.
“I still see yuppies with heavy coins being more attracted to Durango than here,” said audience member Ned Harper.
Another concern was sewage. The development would have its own system, a low-energy aereated lagoon on five or six acres with constructed wetlands.
“It’s hard to build a small part of a sewage plant,” admitted project engineer Cap Allen, who said most of the treatment facility would be built in the beginning. According to documents submitted with the zoning application, the developers will seek state approval for the full-capacity facility, but “phasing will be used as much as possible as it is not feasible to construct a full facility for the first 100 lots. Full permitting for such a facility is a time intensive process and it is not feasible to have that completed for zoning approval only.”
Whether sewage-treatment approval and other information is necessary for zoning was the subject of a debate between Matthews and the county on Nov. 24.
Matthews said growth is coming to the area no matter what and that he had heard estimates of 5,000 to 40,000 new county residents over the coming years.
“If we don’t plan and design how we’re going to like our community to be, we’re going to have a hodgepodge,” he said.
He said he recognized people’s concerns about the scope of the development. “I understand how big this project is. It’s very large.” But it would not be possibly to create an environmentally sustainable community on a small scale, he said.
“This project is not money-driven, this project is conscience-driven. ... I think this is the future of responsible development and responsible living,” Matthews said.