On a 2-to-1 vote late Nov. 22, the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners denied a special review request that would have allowed up to 33 weddings to take place each year at 3924 Bingham Hill Road near LaPorte.
This vote brings to an end a convoluted process that began more than two years ago, when owners Randall (Randy) and Sheryl Pope first applied for permission to hold outside events on their 10-acre property just west of Overland Trail. The parcel, which is zoned FA-Farming, has been owned by the Pope family since 1965. A wholesale nursery operation was added to the family residence in 2000, and Randy Pope had been hosting nonprofit summer camps for a girls’ basketball team he coached there since 2002.
Commissioner Steve Johnson and Chairman Tom Donnelly both said on Nov. 22 that they felt the proposed use would be incompatible with the rural nature of the surrounding area and not in keeping with the county’s land-use code. Commissioner Lew Gaiter III voted to allow the Popes to reopen their previously approved community hall to corporate events and weddings.
Randy Pope declined to comment on the vote, except to say that he has no plans at this time to appeal the decision.
The initial request to rent the property for events was opposed by the LaPorte Area Planning Commission and denied by the county Planning Commission in February 2010. A subsequent appeal to the commissioners was not upheld.
In May 2010, the commissioners approved a revamped special review request from the Popes. Donnelly voted with Gaiter for that proposal, which allowed 18 weddings the first year and 12 per year subsequently, along with 60 seasonal camp sessions that received separate approval.
However, in December — in response to complaints from neighbors — the commissioners found that the Popes had violated noise, occupancy and other conditions that had been placed on the approval and revoked it, shutting down the operation and cancelling events that had already been booked.
In July of this year, after working with Larimer County planning staff, the Popes presented another new version of the application. It included 23 different conditions that had to be met to remain in compliance, including hiring a third party to monitor noise levels and event attendance. That proposal was supported by the LaPorte Area Planning Commission on a 4-to-3 vote in September but opposed by the county Planning Commission on a tie vote in October.
This proposal reduced the number of seasonal camps from 60 to five per year, but increased the potential number of weddings to 33 and corporate events to seven, for a total of 45 events per year. The weddings and corporate events would have been limited to 130 people and 12 service staff, for a total of 5,200 annual visitors to the property, and the parking lot would be sized to accommodate 62 cars.
Forty people spoke at the Nov. 23 hearing, both for and against the request. Neighbors presented a petition that they claimed to show two-thirds of the property owners directly affected by the events center were opposed to allowing such a commercial use in a rural, residential neighborhood. The major objections centered on noise, increased traffic along Bingham Hill Road and incompatibility of the center with the surrounding area.
The Popes’ property is also facing foreclosure, with a notice of election and demand filed in March by lender Home State Bank. At press time, the property was on the Larimer County Public Trustee’s list of foreclosure sales set for Nov. 30. However, the sale has been continued several times since July, most recently from Nov. 23. Trustee documents show an outstanding principal balance of $325,000 owed on an original loan of $385,000.
According to the Northern Colorado Business Report, a final award of more than $182,000 was levied against Randy Pope in October by the Financial Industrial Regulatory Authority as the result of his actions as a securities broker with Lakewood-based CapWest Securities. The settlement was based on claims of breach of fiduciary duty and misrepresentations related to an investment in an industrial warehouse in Texas.
Pope was a registered broker with CapWest until October 2009, NCBR reported on Nov. 18. He, along with several other individuals and firms, is also named in four lawsuits in Wyoming alleging the fraudulent sale of investments in two Texas-based oil-and-gas drilling companies that are now defunct.