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Development's neighbors say things are looking up - and they hate it

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By Matt Gunn

From their backyard, Mary and Mike Wagner see a 10-foot retaining wall looming above them.

Sunrise Assisted Living held a second community hearing Jan. 29 as part of the rezoning process for a 4.2-acre site near the corner of South Kipling Street and West Coal Mine Avenue. Aside from a few remaining concerns over the facility’s proposed 45-foot height, residents nearest the site showed anxiety over the grading of the land and a new road running just outside their backyards.

To meet county standards, however, the land had to be built up by the developer. The situation has left residents like the Wagners looking up at what might be built behind their home.

“Honestly, my biggest concern — I like the nursing home — but why’d they have to grade it up 3 or 4 feet above our fence?” Mary Wagner asked.

Matt Samuels, whose Bethel Development is selling the property, said that because the area is so hilly, it was necessary for the land and road to be graded up, preventing too much of a slope to the arterial roads. Simply put, the topography provided the developer with a series of challenges.

“The road surface of Kipling being so high above the adjacent neighborhoods makes it a challenge because the roadways have to work,” Samuels said. “You have to have it level enough so you can plow it if there’s some ice on it. You have to make sure people can get up and down. You don’t think about it until it’s this time of the year.”

Another issue is the new street running along the border of the land that connects Kipling and Coal Mine. It was another requirement for the developer to include two entrances to the property, which has been divided into three parcels.

While it seems most of the 16 residents who attended last week’s community meeting understood the coming development, the sentiment was that the initial work — grading and road construction — happened unexpectedly.

“We don’t own the view,” Mike Wagner said. “It’s just the way it is. I’m more worried about the road and how close it is to our fence and how high it is.”

Sunrise and Bethel are under contract, though the property has not yet been sold. John Durham, principal for Norris Design, the firm handling development, estimates it could be late April or May before the rezoning goes before the Board of County Commissioners.

Sunrise operates several assisted-living facilities in Colorado, the nearest of which is at Pinehurst at 5195 W. Quincy Ave. The proposed South Jeffco location will be three stories — about 45 feet in height — and have a top floor reserved for Alzheimer’s patients.

Samuels — and several residents — agreed that a senior assisted-living facility beats some options, such as a liquor store or more gas stations.

“If you check their website and you look at what they’ve done across the country, they’re an industry leader,” Samuels said. “They have a dedication to care for their people well, and they provide premier housing for their residents.”

But for the Wagners, who would be within shouting distance of the new facility, the prospect of an access road and people looking into their backyard, is not terribly welcome.

“This road is really the icing on my cake, way up there on the scale,” Mary Wagner said. “It’s just done it; I’m thinking of selling my house.”

New developments such as this are inevitable as the southern half of Jefferson County continues to grow. Samuels contends there are no real bad guys in these situations but rather a series of guidelines and standards that dictate the way land is developed.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “When you have hills, sometimes the solution isn’t as elegant as it is at Lowry, where it’s dead flat. We have to deal with 15 or 20 feet of fall as we go to the corner and work toward Kipling on Bowles.”

Contact Matt Gunn at matt@evergreenco.com. For daily updates, visit www.columbinecourier.com.