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Neighbors get organized to fight auto dealership

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Homeowners in Chatfield Bluffs object to proposed car lot in scenic area near C-470 and Kipling

By Vicky Gits

A group of neighbors in Chatfield Bluffs, Chatfield Bluffs South, Meadow Ranch and White Deer Valley are joining forces to fight a proposed car dealership on 11 acres in their neighborhood at West Ute Avenue and West Toller Drive near Kipling and C-470.

The property in question is within a business park and is zoned for commercial uses, but a car dealership is not one of the approved uses as stated in the Jefferson County master plan.

The developer argues that since a car dealership was allowed on a nearby parcel, which became the County Road and Bridge shop in 1993, a car dealership should be acceptable on the lot across the street.

Real estate lawyer Kim Martin argues in a letter to the planning department on behalf of the developer that a number of alternative allowed uses would be more disruptive than an auto dealership — namely, warehouses, gas stations, recycling transfer stations and parking lots.

But the neighbors group takes issue with the plan on grounds that it isn’t compatible with the condos and single-family homes in the area, and that it would be an eyesore in a highly visible location at the entrance to Deer Creek Canyon Open Space Park. 

The newly formed organization, ColoradoARD, or Colorado Alliance for Responsible Development, has created a website, www.coloradoARD.org.

“When people purchased their homes in this area, they looked at the zoning and the official development plan before they purchased, knowing the undeveloped land by C-470 was zoned for office or light-industrial use,” ColoradoARD said in its inaugural news release on Sept. 21.

“It’s been quite an education for all of us,” said Maureen Laudermilk, a resident of Chatfield Bluffs who described the opposition group as an informal coalition of six HOAs.

The group is gearing up for a hearing, probably either Oct. 10 or Oct. 24, before the Jefferson County Planning Commission.

The developer, Alan Fishman, is seeking to rezone 8.5 acres of vacant land south of C-470 and Kipling Parkway to allow an auto dealership as part of an established 70-acre business park, the Jefferson Corporate Center. Alpine Buick/GMC of Denver is interested in moving to the location. 

As the attorney states in a letter to the planning department, what’s at stake is $1.8 million in potential tax revenue to the county plus $273,000 in state sales tax and other local tax revenue.

Planning staff recommends denial

The county planning staff is recommending the request be denied, according to a response on file in the planning and zoning office.

On the edge of the county near Deer Creek Canyon Park, the elevated location has great views of the Hogback and convenient access to C-470. Other businesses in the center include an Xcel , Johns Manville Technical Center, Marriott Towne Place Suites, a Jefferson County vehicle maintenance compound and two large office buildings.

In the comprehensive plan, the property is designated for office and light-industrial uses, not including an auto dealership. Car dealerships are assigned to the Ken-Caryl Meadows Activity Center on land zoned for large-scale commercial uses (along Kipling from West Chatfield Avenue to C-470).

In a letter of July 16 signed by planner Jeanne Shaffer, the staff states several objections to the dealership proposal: “Staff does not agree that the fact the existing ODP once allowed for car dealerships on the portion of land now owned by the county justifies a unique situation that warrants the car dealership being located on the subject property.”

Shaffer's letter also mentions lighting concerns, and also says granting the exception could set a precedent leading to more car dealerships in similar areas not zoned for large-scale commercial.

“Staff is concerned that regardless of the fact the original ODP allowed for car dealerships in one of its use areas, the precedent will be set for viewing dealerships as a compatible use in office/industrial land. A car dealership cannot create the same economic benefits that office/industrial can.”

County maintenance shop

The original development plan allowed for a vehicle dealership on the land that the county eventually bought for a maintenance shop. It is still zoned for a dealership. “If the county ever sold the property, it could be used in accordance with the Jefferson Corporate Center ODP allowed uses, which includes the car dealerships,” Shaffer said. The other large buildings on the southwest were built in 1999-2000.

In a letter to the planning department from Aug. 2, the developer’s attorney, Kim Martin, states that a new-car dealership would have a more attractive look than a warehouse, for example, which would be allowed on the same site.

The dealership promises to use shorter 20-foot poles and downcast lighting to reduce the visual impact and to work with the county and nearby property owners on a landscape plan that is amenable to everyone. A professional landscape architect would be hired to plan parking-lot islands and other landscape features.

The dealership is expected to generate no more than 20 test-drive trips per day, none of which would likely be conducted in residential neighborhoods.

Since the land has remained vacant for 23 years (since 1989), it seems unlikely that it will ever attract light-industrial or office uses, according Martin’s letter. 

For more information on the case, see "Active Cases" on the planning department website, www.jeffco.us/planning/index.htm.

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.