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Jeffco Commission knocks down Foothills’ rezoning request

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By Joe Moylan

The Jeffco Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted against a rezoning request made by the Foothills Park & Recreation District on more than 3 acres it was hoping to sell for development.
The land in question encompasses two plats totaling 3.85 acres near the intersection of South Wadsworth Boulevard and West Columbine Drive on the east side of the Stony Creek subdivision in south Jeffco. The two plats were among several parcels of vacant, unused land previously identified by the park district that could benefit from a higher and better use, said Foothills Executive Director Ron Hopp during a meeting with the commissioners in December.
But the Jeffco Planning Commission held a public hearing in February about the proposal and recommended by a 6-1 vote that the county not approve the rezoning request. On Tuesday, case manager Mike Madrid told the commissioners that 22 local residents attended the Planning Commission’s February meeting and all spoke out against any development of the two parcels. The county also received about 40 emails against the rezoning request.
In addition to public opposition, Madrid said the Planning Commission also recommended the county deny the request because the parcels don’t meet certain sections of the county’s criteria to be rezoned from their current open space designation.  Of note, Madrid said the Foothills proposal did not identify any land “of superior open space quality” in the vicinity of Stony Creek that would be used to replace the 3.85 acres that would have been lost to development. And although nothing about the land is significant in terms of wildlife habitat, vegetation or for being a scenic corridor, the Planning Commission also recommended denial of the request because it is used by local residents for “passive” outdoor recreation, such as for walking their dogs.
But Hopp argued there is little about the site that lends itself to a vibrant open space. He noted that when the parcels were given to the county during the mid-1970s — and then later dedicated to the Foothills Park District — it was done so with the intention that someday one of the two agencies would dedicate funds to develop a park. Considering neither agency had committed funds for improvements in more than 40 years coupled with the fact that the land shares a border with Wadsworth Boulevard proved that its recreational potential had long since passed, Hopp said.
Furthermore, Hopp pointed out that there were several parks within a one-mile radius of Stony Creek and many more within 2 1/2 miles that residents could take advantage of for their outdoor recreation needs. In addition, Hopp said there have been 18 parcels of arguably greater recreational significance that have been developed within a one-mile radius of Stony Creek. Those parcels equal more than 350 acres, Hopp said.
But the Jeffco Board of County Commissioners ultimately heeded the recommendation of the Planning Commission, voting 2-1 to deny Foothills’ rezoning request. Commissioner Don Rosier voted in favor of Foothills.
“We certainly respect the decision the board of county commissioners has made,” Hopp said. “They feel the criteria hasn’t been met, but we would maintain that the property has been utilized as it was intended as a park for over 40 years.”
The two parcels near Stony Creek represent the last plots Foothills identified as no longer being viable for open space or outdoor recreation. Last year, Foothills sold land on the northeast corner of West Coal Mine Avenue and South Wadsworth Boulevard. Prior to that sale, the district sold in 2014 land on the northwest corner of West Coal Mine and South Wadsworth and in 2013 land at South Simms and South Ward streets, near the Ridge Recreation Center and the Edge Ice Arena.
After the meeting, Hopp said the Foothills board doesn’t plan to appeal the commissioners’ decision nor does it plan to explore other options to sell the land at this time. However, Hopp said the district needs more financial help from its tax base, which is why it began selling unused parcels in the first place. Should voters approve a property-tax increase, which likely will be floated on the November ballot, then the district would remove the Stony Creek parcels from consideration of any sales in the future, Hopp said.

Reporter Joe Moylan can be reached at jmoylan@evergreenco.com