Berrien Ranch is a 456± acre historic ranch enclave just south of Evergreen and an easy commute from Denver. It features lush meadows, healthy forests, prime elk habitat, and rocky outcrops with stunning views to Mount Evans. The property is fully entitled as a turnkey, masterfully planned 26-lot residential project under Jefferson County’s Rural Cluster land use process. Berrien Ranch is equally attractive as a primary Front Range residence, executive retreat, or close to town private recreational ranch. The property possesses inherent beauty, a foothills location, and extensive vested rights – allowing swift development of an exclusive community, with hundreds of acres of private park, either down the road or as an exit strategy. This property presents a unique opportunity for both the sophisticated investor and the discriminating end-user.
Just the Facts
- 456± acres
- 5 miles south of Evergreen
- 5 miles north of Conifer
- 25 miles from downtown
- 45 minutes from DIA
- Direct access to Highway 73
- Vested Rural Cluster Land Division
- Approved for 26 five-acre homesites
- Exceptional views of Mount Evans and Longs Peak
- Combination of heavy timber, meadow and rock outcroppings
- Diverse topography
- Large acreage holding for the area
- Multidimensional exit strategy
- In same ownership since the 1870s
Vested Development Rights
Berrien Ranch, beautiful as is, is also a ready-to-build 26-unit residential subdivision. The project was approved in 2004 under Jefferson County’s Rural Cluster Process, which allows a doubling of residential density on a significant property (from one unit per 35 acres to two units per 35 acres) provided not less than two-thirds of the total acreage, including the land’s most outstanding natural features, is permanently protected as private open area. The current owners obtained these approvals to lock in the property’s long-term development value in anticipation of ongoing public efforts to reduce and restrict development in the Front Range’s more prosperous and growing counties.
Berrien Ranch contains 26 approved single-family residential lots, each larger than 5 acres, grouped into 3 separate clusters surrounded by more than 306 contiguous acres of conservation easement-protected private open space – a gorgeous landscape reserved exclusively for the use and enjoyment of the Berrien Ranch owners.
The Berrien Ranch Rural Cluster, masterfully laid out by the pre-eminent national planning and landscape architecture firm DHM Design, is thus an approved blueprint for the creation of an exclusive private enclave for horseback riders, hikers and nature enthusiasts. Because the rights to develop the land in accordance with the completed planning, platting and infrastructure engineering work are vested rights, Berrien Ranch represents an unusual opportunity to quickly realize a unique architectural and common interest community vision. The remaining required County approvals prior to issuance of permits to begin the work are minor, minimizing time and risk to begin building the project and marketing individual lots or homes, should a buyer choose to develop the property, either now or at some future time.
For many ranch buyers, the presence of a conservation easement raises questions and concerns. All other things being equal, the natural preference is to acquire land with the fewest potential restrictions on its future use and development.
It is therefore important to emphasize that, unlike many conservation easements, the easement affecting the Berrien Ranch was not granted by the current owners to constrain future owners to steward and preserve the property essentially as it is, or to extinguish opportunities. To the contrary, the Berrien Ranch conservation easement was negotiated and crafted as a necessary piece of a larger vision – to protect the owner’s ability to maximize, at the time of his or her choosing, the economic value of this oasis in the foothills just outside Denver, where both development and corresponding growth control pressures are intense.
Jefferson County’s Rural Cluster land division process is intended to create incentives and opportunities for landowners to optimize the development potential of significant properties while at the same time reducing the overall footprint of improvements and conserving the most significant features of the landscape. Again, by meeting the Rural Cluster requirements, a landowner can double the number of residential units otherwise allowed as a matter of right. There are great advantages to a Rural Cluster, as well as some tradeoffs.
Qualifying as a Rural Cluster requires permanently protecting not less than two-thirds of the larger property’s total acreage as open area, with limitations on certain uses. In general, the open area portion of any Rural Cluster project may be used for farming and ranching, as a natural area or wildlife sanctuary, or for non-commercial, low-impact “passive” recreational uses – such as hiking, birdwatching, nature study, and bicycling and horseback riding on roads and trails – that do not involve motorized equipment or guns. Commercial mining and timbering on, or other commercial uses or material alterations of, the open area portions of a Rural Cluster are prohibited.
If a key objective for a buyer is the ability to hunt on his or her own land, the Berrien Ranch may not be the ideal property. That said, vast expanses of national forest lands with outstanding hunting values are just a short drive from the ranch gates. Berrien Ranch itself, with its recognized elk calving area and exceptional and diverse wildlife habitat, is a sanctuary for both man and beast.
The required Berrien Ranch conservation easement interest granted to the local Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT) to meet Jefferson County Rural Cluster requirements reserves, however, great flexibility to construct the 26 allowed homes and related improvements within the generously sized and optimally spaced and sited building envelopes. The road system and other project infrastructure may be built as originally engineered and approved, notwithstanding possible later changes in general road standards or similar requirements, or efforts to further restrict development generally.
The owners’ significant investment in the Berrien Ranch Rural Cluster land division reflects their recognition – nearly two decades ago – that any limitations imposed by the required grant of a conservation easement were far outweighed by the vested development rights – in effect protecting the Berrien Ranch and its owners against inevitable future “downzoning” efforts – secured through that process.
Nearby Evergreen, with its mix of boutiques, shops, restaurants, pubs and local businesses, is a center of year-round activity. Evergreen Lake, created in 1927 with the damming of Bear Creek just above the town, is a popular fishing and picnicking spot in summer, and a destination for ice-skaters in winter. Named for Colorado Governor John Evans, Mount Evans is the second tallest of Colorado’s 54 “Fourteeners”; visible from more than 100 miles away, Mount Evans rises 14,265 feet above sea level and dominates the westerly views from the high ground of Berrien Ranch.
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
Facts at a Glance
Address: 7531 County Highway 73, Evergreen, Colorado
Nearest town: Evergreen, CO, 5 miles
Nearest city: Denver, CO, 30 miles to downtown
Property Taxes: Estimated at approximately $731.00 annually
Acreage: 456 ± Deeded Acres
Terrain: Mix of open meadows, ponderosa pine, mountain forests
Elevation: 7,800± to 8,300± feet above sea level
Conservation Easement: Yes, as required for Rural Cluster entitlements
• Denver International Airport, Denver County, 55 miles with a drive time of just over an hour via Interstate 70. Commercial aviation with domestic and international flights on major carriers.
• Centennial Airport, Englewood, CO, 35 miles, with a drive time of about 50 minutes via U.S. Highway 285. General aviation, open to the public, control tower.
Berrien Ranch is located in Game Management Unit 39 of the Central Front Range district. Like much of the central Front Range, GMU 39 includes major highways, residential areas, public parks and open space where hunting is prohibited. Most of the hunting in GMU 39 is on other private land or public land at higher elevations. Resident and migratory deer and elk herds occupy the area. Most of the migratory elk that winter at the lower and middle elevations are found on private land (including the Berrien Ranch) or in public open spaces where hunting is prohibited. In 2012, hunters harvested 187 deer and 161 elk from GMU 39.
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