Powell golf course subdivision delayed

County sends developer back to the drawing board

Posted 8/8/19

Plans for a new subdivision alongside the Powell Golf Club have again been delayed.

After the developer failed to get financing lined up within a year of getting preliminary approval, Park County …

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Powell golf course subdivision delayed

County sends developer back to the drawing board

Posted

Plans for a new subdivision alongside the Powell Golf Club have again been delayed.

After the developer failed to get financing lined up within a year of getting preliminary approval, Park County commissioners ruled Tuesday that he must restart the subdivision process.

Will Ambrose asked for extra time to turn in all the required paperwork, but commissioners declined to do so on a 2-2 vote.

Commissioner Lee Livingston said that, while the county is in the business of serving the public, “we also have rules for a reason, and there have been exceptions made already.”

Ambrose has been planning the Powell Country Club Estates for roughly a decade. His intent is to convert a pasture off of Road 5 into a 14-lot subdivision, bordered on three sides by the golf course.

Ambrose won county approval for the Country Club Estates in 2009, but he shelved the project following a downturn in the economy and issues with the irrigation system. Ambrose then revived the plans in 2017 and the subdivision’s preliminary plat received the commission’s blessing in May 2018. However, despite reminders from the county planning and zoning staff, he failed to submit the final plat application within a one-year deadline. Most significantly, Ambrose didn’t submit proof that he had the financing lined up for the work.

On Tuesday, an apologetic Ambrose asked commissioners for an exception to the planning rules — known as a variance — and give him until later this month to complete his application.

“This was simply a misunderstanding,” Ambrose said. It took time to transfer the funds from a family bank account in Canada, he said — and he was confused about how much money he needed to come up with for his financial guarantee.

The county requires developers to provide an irrevocable line of credit, a surety performance bond or evidence of an escrow account that covers 125 percent of the total estimated cost of building out the project. In a document Ambrose signed in 2018, he estimated that he would need to guarantee about $228,000 to meet the county’s requirements; however, Ambrose said Tuesday that he mistakenly thought that guarantee was in addition to the cash he needed for the construction — explaining that he believed he would have to raise around $490,000.

It was “something that could probably only happen to a first-time subdivision builder,” Ambrose said of his misunderstanding.

He provided commissioners a letter from Big Horn Federal Savings Bank, dated Monday, that says Ambrose now “has lines of credit in place that total $210,000.”

Cody Schatz of Engineering Associates, who’s been assisting Ambrose on the project, encouraged commissioners to grant an extension. He said the final documents could be turned in within a week and construction could begin in the fall.

“To go back to square one, there’s not a lot of benefit to the commissioners here or to the developer ...,”  Schatz said, “because we’re talking another year, another $20,000, $30,000 to go back through the steps.”

Commissioner Joe Tilden said he didn’t understand why Ambrose didn’t complete the process on time, but supported giving a six-month extension.

“I would certainly like to see the process continue on,” Tilden said. Sending Ambrose back to the start of the approval process, he said, “is going to cost him a lot of additional money to do the exact same thing that he’s already done” while likely ending with the same result.

However, other commissioners were unpersuaded.

“We’re so close and he finally has the document in place, but he’s had a year and the rules are in place for a reason,” said Commission Chairman Jake Fulkerson, adding, “It just appears to be a lack of attention to detail to me, which doesn’t qualify for a variance, in my book.”

Fulkerson later reversed course and joined with Tilden to support the variance, explaining in an interview that the letter from Big Horn Federal swayed him. However, the motion still failed on a 2-2 vote, with Livingston and Commissioner Dossie Overfield opposed.

Park County Planning Director Joy Hill told commissioners before the vote that they had a difficult decision to make.

“We don’t want to cause undue harm to people who are just trying to get the process done, but at the same time, a lot of resources are put in by county staff to ensure that these processes come to a soft landing,” Hill said, “and our promptings were ignored, literally until the day it was due, and … I don’t take that lightly, either.”

During the more than 20-minute discussion, commissioners also quizzed Ambrose on why he had yet to pay the second half of his property taxes — totaling $340.80 — for the 14.43-acre parcel of land. He said it was an oversight.

“I don’t have an excuse. Just silly,” Ambrose said.

He told commissioners he would pay the delinquent taxes Tuesday afternoon, but he did not; as of Wednesday, county records showed Ambrose was still delinquent on that parcel and several others he owns.

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