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Morrison questions development plans in the Rooney Valley

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By Deborah Swearingen

Development in the Rooney Valley may be inevitable, but the town of Morrison is faced with an important question: Will the development actually be in Morrison? Or will it be disconnected into unincorporated Jefferson County?

Dozens of community members joined board members at the Morrison Town Hall on Aug. 29 to hear an informal update from Ventana Capital, the real estate investment group representing the ownership of the 300-plus acre property now called Red Rocks Ranch.

The proposed plan for the property, which sits on the northeast corner of C-470 and Morrison Road, calls for 1,159 residential units, 40 acres of commercial and 73 acres of parks and open space. In an effort to appease requests from the public, this version of the plan for Red Rocks Ranch has removed more than 200 residential units and added 6 acres of open space.

Last week’s meeting was an informal study session to update the public about the current status of the project. The project team now will have to submit a formal application to move forward in the process.

Many in Morrison tend to favor allowing for in-town commercial development, and the Red Rocks Ranch property is currently within Morrison. But after more than two hours of discussion, it became clear that most residents favor a disconnection and would prefer no development to residential.

With residential development comes traffic and a potential loss of local control — both of which were of great concern to those in attendance at last week’s meeting. With nearly 1,200 new homes, condominiums or town houses, some worry about what an influx of residents could do come election time.

“It’s going to hurt,” said Margaretta Caesar of Morrison. “It’s going to impact us strongly. They can do whatever they want with our little town.”

“This is a really special, special town,” she added. “Geographically, it’s so special — just the way we have this hogback defining us, protecting us. I want it to stay that way, so I’m strongly in the disconnect camp.”

The development team says its goal is to disconnect from the town and annex into Jeffco. Originally, it planned to annex into Lakewood, but Andy Trietley, asset manager at Ventana Capital, said that idea has since been nixed. If the town of Morrison approves the disconnection, the county wouldn’t have a say in the matter.

Resident John Leonard was curious about why the development team would seek approval of its plan from Morrison before requesting a disconnection.

“You’re here for the American dollar,” he said. “If we’re going to give something, we should be getting something.”

The project team, however, maintains that its reasoning for doing so is to avoid confusion and conflict at the county level.

“It is ambiguous as to what would occur post-disconnect with regard to status of zoning,” Trietley said. “The intent is to carry over zoning that is reflective of this vision and reasonably compatible with the Rooney Valley’s vision for development in this area.”

The conversation at one point drifted back to Morrison’s town goals, which define a disconnection from Red Rocks Ranch as a top priority. Board members look to the goals when making all town decisions.

“We have this overriding goal of Keep Morrison, Morrison, which doesn’t mean never change anything,” said board member Katie Gill. “It just means maintain our character, the character of the residential portion of Morrison where we live, west of the hogback.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.