Walking the Riverwalk

lot 25 0919
This lot, across the pond from us (the house you see is on the other side of a road), could possibly soon be under new ownership. The biggest drawback to this lot is that this lovely stand of trees sits right in the middle where you would want to put a house.

Riverwalk Estates, where Lynn and I now live, was a failed development, as I used to mention often but haven’t brought it up in oh, say five minutes. Two local couples, with day jobs in fields different than turning agrarian fields into real estate, conceived and started this “luxury” development surrounded by public pathways and ostentatiously across the road from a trailer park that houses a lot (a lot) of people without much money at all.

I don’t know how it would have worked out for these local not-really-developers had the world economy not tanked, based (at least in this country) on puffed-up real estate prices — they perhaps had already crashed and burned so it might not have made any difference, or maybe that is what brought about the failure.

Either way, the developers got the infrastructure in, sold less than half the 40-some lots at hugely — and I mean hugely — inflated prices (at least double the current rates) . . . and there the money ran out. A local contractor built a large spec house on one of the lots and then ended up in foreclosure.

Three, perhaps four other houses got built, but the rest of the development lay fallow, unworked and unharvested. Another house got built four years ago; another followed a year later.

Then, in the waning days of 2016, a family trust out of Oklahoma bought up the 20-some lots that had never changed hands, effectively taking over responsibility for the development. One member of the family, a man who I think lives in Colorado but not Gunnison County, sits on the HOA board.

As far as I’m concerned, the best thing these folks have done so far is use the bond posted by the original developers to put in a turn lane on the highway. This was not required until 20 houses get built, and we’re only halfway there, but the family trust went ahead and had it constructed, making turning off the highway into the development so much safer.

(We were barely accessing Riverwalk in the days before the turn lane, and while I was attempting to turn left, I had two different impatient drivers pass me on the left. I can’t imagine, looking at all the traffic on the highway this past summer, trying to make this turn on a regular basis without the extra lane.)

The more baffling thing they’ve done lies in how they’ve chosen to market the development. They hired a Sotheby’s office based in Crested Butte, which has changed its name slightly at least three times in three years and now appears to be under the umbrella of a much larger Sotheby’s firm out of Denver.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this, but the thrust of their ad campaign has been to target second homeowners, presumably from south of here, to buy a piece of sportsmen’s paradise. Meanwhile, the bulk of their sales have to been to locals, or people planning to become locals for closer proximity to grandchildren.

You’d think — or at least I think — you’d notice that and shift your advertising to where it’s got traction. When Lynn and I bought our lot, it was cheaper than any of the lots in the W Mountain Subdivision inside city limits — and the lots out here are much larger, with fewer restrictive covenants. Several people have likened this development to a new Dos Rios, close to town but out of town, populated by locals.

And I’m not really clear how much of a “sportsmen’s paradise” this really is. The ponds are stocked with giant fish, but it’s catch-and-release, and it feels more like a good activity for residents’ grandchildren than sportsmen. There is a fishing easement along many but not all of the riverside lots, but that’s open to everyone, not just residents, so no special benefit there.

There does appear to be a small riverside beach suitable for launching a boat, but apparently the covenants aren’t clear enough and the people who own that lot insist that this access is for ditch maintenance only. (I don’t know how they’re squaring it with the fishing easement — I feel as long as I took a fishing pole along, I ought to be able to stand there all day if I want.)

There is a small trail system that is supposed to be private but really isn’t, and because the covenants weren’t clear the board went back to lot owners and got prescriptive easements to allow lot owners and their guests to walk and bike it (and perhaps drive ATVs along it — there are a lot of unanswered questions out here). But the south end of this trail winds onto the portion of the property that was deeded over to the county to be part of a larger public trail system, and I have no idea how you might tell people,”You can walk on this part, but not that part” without a lot more signage, fences and locked gates.

Ice skating is also promised for winters on at least one of the ponds, but there’s no ice maintenance and really, as the water levels recede as the river drops and ditches quit flowing, very little ice period.

And with general access at least theoretical at some point of nearly every lot (owners and their guests can sit themselves at the south end of our lot and watch the fish in the pond anytime under the one easement that is crystal clear), this just doesn’t seem like a place to “get away from it all.” It seems like a Dos Rios with more trail access.

For whatever reason, lot sales have slowed way down this year for the family trust. I don’t think any have changed hands so far in 2019. But yesterday Lynn saw several people converging on a lot across the pond and speculated that we might be getting new neighbors.

After sales had gone so well for two years, the family trust jumped all the lot prices by $10,000. I did get an e-mail earlier this year from the Sotheby’s realtor who sells all the lots here touting a $10,000 price rollback on the lot across the pond, although when I look at the sale sheets attached to her sign, it still shows the higher price, so I’m not sure what price these folks might be looking at.

I also don’t know if it’s the same lot, but the realtor e-mailed us a couple weeks back asking how deep (technically, how shallow) our well came in and what the cost was. That doesn’t really seem like a second homeowner question to me, but maybe some of them are more price conscientious than I’m used to.

So we may get new neighbors (and if they’re asking about wells, that suggests they’re planning to build, although many lot owners here don’t seem to be in much hurry about that), and the family trust may be able to notch one sale for the year.

We’re going to hope that the new neighbors are less like the second homeowners (technically, lot owners, since there’s no house) who come twice a year to their lot, apparently for the express purpose of erecting more “no trespassing” signs and barricades, and more like all the really nice people we’ve met who actually live here.



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