Lakefront property owners next to the Burton Creek development in Denver likely won't see relief from silt deposits in their coves for several months.
Citing a need for more information, Lincoln County commissioners will continue discussing whether the property's owner, Fifth Third Bank, should pay for cleaning up the development's neighboring coves at its April4 meeting.
In the meantime, the county planning board recommended the county hire a third-party expert to analyze data on silt levels in the five coves.
Last week, Fifth Third requested county commissioners remove or reduce the $500,000 performance bond that is part of the development's conditional use permit.
The bank also requested they not be required to hire an independent firm to monitor silt levels in the coves.
The bank made the requests after county staff discussed possibly revoking the bank's conditional use permit since it had not met its stipulations.
In order to revoke the bank's permit on the Burton Creek development, county commissioners must open a quasi-judicial hearing and receive a four-fifths vote in favor.
Burton Creek has caused heartache to area residents since its original developer clear-cut 250 acres to make room for the 385 single-family neighborhood.
Residents have said that after the land was cleared, runoff from the exposed red clay during rainstorms poured into neighboring coves.
The sediment in the water, known as silt, threatens wildlife, water quality and property values, said residents.
Fifth Third Bank took over the Burton Creek property in September after it went into foreclosure.
But since the bank only plans to sell the property and has no intentions of developing the site, it should not be held to the bond or letter of credit, said Don Nielsen, an attorney representing the bank.
Nielson added the bank has invested money to stabilize the land.
"The bank is not to be blamed for what the previous owner did or didn't do," said Nielson. "The bank has caused no sediment flow. It's fixing a problem it did not cause at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Nielson also suggested the $500,000 figure was punitive.
According to a 2009 county estimate, dredging one cove would cost $35,000. At the time, four coves were considered tainted by the Burton Creek development. Thus, to dredge all four coves would cost $140,000 for up to a foot of silt.
Since the county applies 125 percent for subdivision bonds, the total price of the bond would be $175,000 - not $500,000.
"It must be both responsible and appropriate," said Nielson. "There's no authority for a bond that is more than 350 percent higher than the county's worst case scenario."
Nielson requested, if the bond must remain, it be reduced to $140,000, per the county's own estimate.
But many residents said the bond should be higher than the county had set, especially since two more coves appear to have increased silt levels because of the Burton Creek development.
"I fully understand Fifth Third being an involuntary and reluctant owner of the property," said resident David McDonald at last week's meeting. "They're to be commended for dealing with and stabilizing the site. ... But if you own it, you own it, and you're responsible for it."
But bank representatives said there was "no evidence" that the Burton Creek development had ever caused the silting of area coves.
"We need to determine the true story of what's going on with the silt," said Jeff Frushtick, planning board chairman. "The original developer never established a baseline measurement and that's part of the problem."
Several residents said they were shocked that bank representatives suggested the development had not caused silting in area coves.
"My backyard is what we used to call quiet cove, you can call it quiet mud hole now," said Westport resident Gary Eudy. "If the silt issue is in denial, I invite Mr. Banker and Mr. Lawyer to come out to my cove. You will see the silt; it's nothing that's not apparent."