Roberts Ranch Donation Process
The Open Lands Advisory Board will take action on accepting a gift of an approximately 16,500-acre property in the Livermore Valley known as the Roberts Ranch. The Roberts Ranch was homesteaded by the Roberts Family in 1874, and is an active cattle ranch owned solely by Catherine Roberts, who has approached the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources to offer this generous gift.
Per the standard Open Lands Program acquisition process the Open Lands Board took this proposal up for action and heard public comment at a meeting on January 3, 2013. At that time the board tabled the discussion until the upcoming Board Meeting on Thursday January 24, 2013. Information about the Open Lands Program is available at www.larimer.org/openlands
At the upcoming Open Lands Board meeting the board will begin in executive session at 5pm, before opening the meeting to the public at 5:45 pm. At that time the board will hear a staff presentation concerning the Robert's Ranch Donation including an overview of the project and more information on potential management costs as well as a waste tire site on the property.
Following the presentation there will be public comment from individuals who have not yet given comment on this topic.
Following public comment the board will discuss the opportunity, and ultimately make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners as to whether the county should accept the gift or not.
The final decision of whether to accept the gift lies with the Board of County Commissioners. They will hold a hearing on the subject on Monday February 4, 2013.
Important Meeting Details:
Open Lands Advisory Board Meeting
January 24, 2013
Loveland City Council Chambers
500 E. Third St, Loveland CO
5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
5:00 pm - Board Executive Session
5:45 pm - Public Portion of Board Meeting Begins, including presentations, public comment and action on the Roberts Ranch Donation
Board of County Commissioners Hearing on the Robert's Ranch Proposal
February 4, 2013
Larimer County Courthouse Offices
1st Floor Hearing Room
200 W. Oak St. Fort Collins CO
"Final Decision is expected to be made concerning the Roberts Ranch Proposal at this meeting
Frequently Asked Questions about the Roberts Ranch Donation Process
- Who is the current owner of the Roberts Ranch?
A title commitment confirms that Catherine Roberts is the sole owner of the entire Roberts Ranch and as a private property owner she has the right to convey ownership of the property to whomever she wishes. Per standard operating procedure the county will secure title insurance at closing should the decision be made to move forward with accepting the donation.
- What has been the process for considering the gift of the Roberts Ranch?
The process for considering this gift has been the standard Department of Natural Resources
Acquisition process. Larimer County Natural Resources only works with willing landowners, and acquisition negotiations are confidential until Final Review, as outlined in the above process.
In this particular case Mrs. Roberts requested a meeting with Larimer County in June of 2012 to discuss the prospect of donating her ranch to the county. In December of 2012 Mrs. Roberts signed a letter of intent to pursue the donation.
Since that time the process has continued with the Open Lands Advisory Board taking the item up for Final Review on January 3, 2013. At that time the board heard public comment on the topic from a number of residents and decided to table the issue and receive more information from staff at the upcoming January 24 board meeting prior to making a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners.
That recommendation will then move to a public hearing with the Board of County Commissioners on February 4, 2013 at 6:30p.m. at the Larimer County Courthouse Offices First Floor Hearing Room at 200 W. Oak St. in Fort Collins.
- What are the counties plans for management of the property and how much will it cost?
In the near term the county will spend approximately one year learning about the property, and establishing baselines for long-term management. A full public management planning process will detail the long-term management of the property.
During the management plan process options for the management of the cow/calf operation will be considered. These include, but are not limited to, leasing the cow/calf operation to a qualified ranch operator, providing grazing leases, establishing a grass bank, the county directly managing the cow/calf operation or some combination of these options.
Based on a preliminary assessment of the property, the County is estimating some start-up costs for the repair/improvement of some of the existing residential buildings on the ranch. In subsequent years, based on current costs of county managed lands it is estimated that the annual cost of managing the property will be lower, approximately $15 to $22 per acre.
Management Plan Process
- Where would the funding for the management of the property coming from?
Funds for the management of all County Open Spaces
come from the ¼-cent Help Preserve Open Spaces sales tax, which the voters of Larimer County levied upon themselves in 1995 and 1999 in order to conserve landscapes in the county for agriculture, conservation and public recreation. The tax is currently set to sunset in 2018.
- Why is the initial start-up cost of the ranch $400,000 for the county?
The estimated initial start-up cost for management of the Roberts Ranch relates to a number of factors, and is unrelated to the ongoing management costs estimated above.
Mrs. Roberts will receive the income from the sale of this year's calf crop, but the County will incur the expenses for the cattle operation for the duration of this year while the income associated with those expenses will not be realized until the following year. Those expenses will be higher in the first year because of the compensation of the existing ranch manager and a new manager during the transition process.
- How will the public benefit from County ownership of the property when there are already conservation easements in place?
The conservation easements covering the property currently protect the natural resource values and eliminate the possibility of the property being sub-divided and developed. As with any conservation easement, ownership of the ranch can be sold or transferred, however per the easements the property must remain completely intact.
Under County ownership limited, controlled, public access would likely be allowed through tours and education programs similar to programming already underway on many County Open Space properties.
Having the Roberts Ranch owned and managed by a local agency as a part of the Laramie Foothills Mountains to Plains area is the best way to protect its significant natural and cultural resources and ensure that these resources and the agricultural heritage remains as it is today.
While the conservation easements protect the natural resources of the property it remains the responsibility of the land owner to allow public access or not. Pursuant to the stipulations of the donation the county will consider offering limited, controlled, public access to the property potentially through guided hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as some public tours and educational programs on the natural, cultural, and agricultural resources.
Citizens will also benefit from the county's protection of the properties cultural resources from Larimer County Ranger patrol, and ongoing stewardship actions led by the departments' resource stewardship teams, partnerships with outside experts and volunteers.
- Will the County pay fees in lieu of taxes to compensate special districts for their loss in tax revenue?
Pursuant to the gift Mrs. Roberts has asked that the county consider paying fees in lieu of taxes to some special districts if the ranch is removed from the tax rolls. At this time Larimer County intends to pay these fees, an estimated $12,600 each year.
- How will the county address the discarded tires on the property?
One aspect of the properties history is that it was used to discard waste tires for many years. Currently county staff are meeting with local and state officials to assess the situation. Local governments are eligible for state grant funding for waste tire removal. If gifted this property Larimer County would likely pursue these funding opportunities in order to address the situation.
The estimates of the number of tires on the property vary widely, from as many as 10,000 tires to over 500,000. Prior to the conservation easements being placed on the property in 2005 and 2006, an assessment of the waste tires was performed by the Larimer County Health Department as to whether these tires posed any significant environmental or health risks. That assessment determined that the tires do not pose any significant risks related to air and water quality.
- If the county were to decline this gift what would Mrs. Roberts consider doing with the property?
If the County declines to accept this gift, there are a variety of options available to Mrs. Roberts. It would be inappropriate for the County to speculate on which of these options she would consider as an alternative to the gift to the County.