A judge has ruled against Sterling Ranch, the sprawling residential/commercial development proposed for the rural area south of Chatfield State Park that has been dogged by a shortage of available water.
The man who prevailed in the Sterling Ranch lawsuit against Douglas County, who once served as the county’s attorney, calls his triumph a classic example of David prevailing over Goliath.
Douglas County District Court Judge Paul King on Aug. 22 issued an order in favor of the Chatfield Community Association, granting its request to reverse the decision by the board of county commissioners to approve the Sterling Ranch planned development and water appeal.
James Kreutz served as county attorney in the 1990s and said the key to the judge’s order was clarity in state law.
“The board wanted to approve (Sterling Ranch) and tried to figure out a way to get around the state statute that requires a showing of availability of water in quality and quantity,” Kreutz said. “And it didn’t work.”
King’s decision came more than a year after the board approved Harold Smethills’ request to subdivide more than 3,400 acres in the Chatfield Valley and gain an appeal to the county’s water regulations.
The Sterling Ranch planned development was approved by commissioners in May 2011, for the development of more than 12,000 homes, a sports village, recreation center and commercial district in the rural area along Titan Road.
At the same time, the commissioners approved a water appeal that allowed Smethills, Sterling Ranch managing director, to prove an adequate water supply for the development at each plat filing, or phase, of construction.
Within about a month of the board’s approval of the Sterling Ranch application, the neighboring Chatfield Community Association filed a lawsuit challenging its decision.
King’s ruling appears to be a clear statement of support in their favor.
“The Board has no authority to approve the application without the Applicant demonstrating the adequacy of the water supply,” King wrote in his order. “The Water Appeal cannot be used to thwart the requirements of the development permit approval process.”
County attorney Lance Ingalls was in the process of reviewing King’s order to determine its impact on the Sterling Ranch application and declined comment on the ruling until completion of his review.
Smethills, who this month announced two deals with Aurora Water that paved the way for the first plat filings for Sterling Ranch, remains committed to the development.
“We are in the process of gathering additional water and are moving forward with the development of our project,” Smethills said.