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Rezoning proposal concerns community

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By Deborah Swearingen

It doesn’t take long for Barbara Walker to detail why she moved from downtown Denver to the foothills of South Jefferson County.

“We moved out of there to be in this mountain setting,” the native Coloradan said, “… to get away from the increasing urbanization and density of Denver.

“It’s an incredible animal corridor.”

This is one of the reasons why she and other nearby residents oppose a development proposal on a plot of land in Willow Springs, south of Morrison, which would bring a 320-unit development to the area.

Jefferson County planner Elyse Dinnocenzo said she received the formal application to rezone the approximately 85-acre property on Tuesday. To develop, the property would need to be rezoned from agricultural and commercial to planned development to allow for multi-family and commercial uses.

Prior to the application submittal, residents gathered for a Nov. 16 meeting to hear from Bill Swalling with Mountain Villages at Willow Springs, LLP. Swalling is proposing a multi-family development on a piece of land owned for more than 40 years by Rick Tidrick.

Jefferson County is home to the largest population of those 65 and older in the state of Colorado. Thus, the development, which would be housed on property south of U.S. 285 and west of Red Rocks Country Club, is intended for those 55 and older.

In addition to housing, the proposed development would have commercial and recreational amenities, intended for use by those living in the community.

“Ultimately, his goal is to create a walkable, 55-plus development,” Dinnocenzo said. “… So the basic, mixed-use idea where the first floor might have coffee shops and then there’s residences above it.”

Community concerns

Approximately 130 residents attended the meeting at Waterstone Community Church in Littleton, while others wrote letters of opposition to Jefferson County. By and large, residents have serious concerns about the proposed development.

“I think it’d be fair to say that there’s a very vocal opposition,” Dinnocenzo said.

Among other things, residents worry about increased traffic, preservation of natural lands, population density and building height.

“My main thing I’m worried about … is the amount of traffic it’s going to add to Belleview,” said Jon Ronat, who has lived in the area for 14 years. “Belleview right now has gotten a lot busier over the years.”

Mike Reinhardt, an 18-year resident, agreed.

“I think a lot of these questions are fundamental to the project even being approved,” he said. “(The) traffic impact would be absolutely huge.”

Reinhardt also strongly disagreed with the commercial aspect of the proposed development.

“Nobody needs that up there. Nobody wants that,” he said.

“Basically everybody that lives up there knows there’s no commercial,” Reinhardt added. “That would fly in the face of everyone that lives there.”

Others in the community meeting had similar thoughts as Reinhardt. But in her notes from the meeting, Dinnocenzo said the applicant expressed a dedication to keeping commercial development in the proposal to develop a walkable community for residents.

What’s next?

Swalling proposed a different version of this project two years ago, according to Dinnocenzo. While his current proposal is similar, he did make a few changes to appease some of the residents’ concerns. One of those changes included proposing a heavier concentration at the center of the site with the hope of creating a larger setback and larger buffers between existing residences and the potential project.

At this point, it’s hard to say when the rezoning case may come before the Jeffco planning commission. Currently, it’s going through the first referral process, which could take two to three weeks.

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