ALAMOSA — Filling The Barn at La Manzanilla Farm with a crowd of around 100 people, Rio Bravo RV Resort developers presented their proposal, answered questions and took public comments Friday night.
The proposed RV resort, which has been scaled back from 500 to 336 spaces, will be located off North River Road on private property and Alamosa Ranch property, if the City of Alamosa agrees to a land swap/sale combination.
Friday was the deadline to submit requests for proposals for the Alamosa Ranch property, and Rio Bravo submitted a proposal to exchange approximately 10 acres of the developers’ private property (which had been platted for about 18 home sites) for about 35 acres of city ranch property. Both the developers and city are conducting appraisals, which have not yet been completed.
The city council, which was purposely not present at the public meeting Friday night, will discuss the proposal (but not make a decision) during its meeting next Wednesday night, City Manager Heather Brooks told the audience. She said city councilors did not want the Friday meeting to be about persuading them one way or another so they did not attend. She said the meeting was an opportunity for the developers to discuss their proposal with the community.
Alamosa architect Don Spencer served as the primary spokesman for the Rio Bravo RV Resort partners, but most of the other partners in the project were also present. The project has evolved from entirely private property the developers own to a planned unit development that would combine private and city-owned ranch property, Spencer explained, with the first phase of the project to include 200 RV sites on the city ranch property and the next phase to locate 136 RV sites on private property in the Cottonwoods development near Cattails Golf Course. Home sites would also be part of a future phase, and developers want to restore the old stage stop on North River Road as a historic site and tourist attraction, Spencer explained.
RV sites would be 20x100 feet with concrete pads, picnic tables and landscaping, Spencer explained. Other amenities in the resort would include swimming pools, laundry facilities, playground areas, pickleball and other spaces for recreational activities.
Although 50-100 spaces would be open to drop-in campers, the resort would be based on memberships sold to RV’ers, with different levels including one that would offer golf club memberships, Spencer explained. Although privately owned and maintained, Rio Bravo would also be affiliated with Coast to Coast, giving members access to other RV resorts across the nation.
Developers will pave the current road into the disc golf course and archery range, which will serve as the resort entrance, and expand it to 36-40 feet wide, Spencer explained. They also plan to build buffering hedges of 6-7 feet in height around the resort. He said the developers would shoulder most of the other costs of developing infrastructure to the resort, such as bringing city utilities onto the property and relocating an irrigation ditch on the property.
“We want to do everything very carefully,” he said.
He said if all goes well, the RV resort would be open by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
He said the route into the resort would be off Highway 17 to North River Road, and resort members would be instructed to use that route. There was quite a bit of discussion Friday evening about whether or not RV’s would be traveling through the adjacent Cottonwood subdivision and into town, with some residents concerned about increased traffic and RV’s traveling through their neighborhoods. Developers said people who own large recreational vehicles want to protect their investments so would want to travel on the main access roads to avoid obstacles that might damage their vehicles. Spencer said signage and education would be used to keep RV’s from going through the neighboring subdivision.
He said the economic impact from RV guests in a community has been determined to be $28-44 a day. At least a portion of the RV resort will be open year round, he explained.
After looking at other areas in the state, developers chose this area for the proposed resort, Spencer said, because it provides access to the types of activities RV’ers enjoy such as hiking and fishing, and because it would fill a gap for the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which currently has to turn away many RV’s every year because it does not have enough space to accommodate them.
Several of the comments and concerns shared with developers on Friday revolved around access and continued use of the trails and river levee, which many residents have used for running, jogging, walking and taking their dogs and children for walks. Spencer said the river levee trail actually runs on private property owned by LeRoy Martinez and Butch Southway, and he could not speak for what they might do to continue accommodating residents using that area. He said they are supportive of this project. He added that the developers want to keep as low an impact as possible on existing trails especially along the river levee. He said he also lives in that part of town and frequently uses the trails there.
Scott Graber, who uses the trail and whose house would have a view of the RV resort across the river, said he believed most people would prefer to look at old cottonwoods that exist there now “than a new stand of RV’s.”
Julie Mordecai added that although she was not opposed to some of the 1,200-acre ranch being developed, she also wanted to see critical areas protected.
Other concerns shared at the Friday meeting included:
• Increased traffic on North River Road across the State Avenue Bridge and into residential neighborhoods, and increased traffic in general
• Land currently used for cattle pasture would be affected by the development.
• Wildlife would also be affected, as this area provides habitat for a variety of wild animals.
• Water usage for the resort and swimming pools, especially since Splashland is already in existence nearby (Spencer said Coast to Coast requires pool amenities)
• Concern that existing recreational opportunities such as the disc golf course would be protected (Spencer said the archery range and disc golf course would remain as they are)
Developers were asked if they had a business plan, and Rio Bravo partner Mike Fisher said they would have one in about a week. They are working on financing through Alamosa State Bank.
Spencer said this is an $8 million project, and local contractors would be used to construct it.
The issue of lodging taxes was questioned. Chamber of Commerce Director Randy Wright said it is unclear whether this type of membership resort would be subject to a bed tax, but the developers were open to that if it were possible. Non-membership spaces would be subject to the lodging tax.
Wright also spoke to the issue of property taxes, another question raised Friday. He said in speaking to the county assessor, it appeared that the property would produce $65,000-70,000 more in property taxes than it currently is, especially considering that no property taxes are being paid now on the city ranch property. When an attendee asked if that took into account her reduced property taxes as a result of the development, Wright said he did not believe this resort would negatively affect property values.
Some of the attendees spoke in favor of the resort and said they had seen similar resorts benefit communities elsewhere.
Attendees thanked the developers for hosting Friday’s meeting, and Spencer said, “We will have more of these.”
Caption: Residents packed the Barn at La Manzanilla Farm Friday evening for a community meeting regarding a proposed RV resort in Alamosa./Courier photo by Ruth Heide