Morrison unanimously approves rezoning of Red Rocks Ranch

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The town also votes to disconnect the property from its jurisdiction

By Deborah Swearingen

After nearly two months of public hearings and discussion, the Morrison Town Board on May 31 unanimously approved rezoning Red Rocks Ranch and subsequently voted to disconnect the property from within its jurisdiction.

The decision marks a big win for many Morrison residents who see the disconnection as a means of upholding the town’s longtime goal to “Keep Morrison, Morrison.” Furthermore, several Morrison board members said they are relieved to complete the process, citing sleepless nights due to a tough decision.

Mayor Sean Forey sees the project as a financial win for the town, which will be providing water and sewer to the new development and receiving a 1 percent public improvement fee from any commercial development on the property.

“This financially takes care of Morrison for maybe ever,” Forey said.

The development, which sits at the northeast corner of Morrison Road and C-470 and is now in unincorporated Jefferson County, will bring as many as 1,350 mixed-use residential units. Additionally, there will be availability for commercial uses on approximately 40 acres with plans to provide services such as a supermarket, restaurants and retail.

Developers say they are planning for more than 70 acres of parks, open space and trails, which satisfies Jeffco and Morrison’s requirements. Originally, they planned for more than 37 acres, but Andrew Trietley with Ventana Capital clarified this was simply the amount of land specifically designated in the zoning.

While many on the board agreed with the Lakewood and Morrison residents who would rather see the property remain open space, they recognized that the zoning in front of them was preferable to the property’s current zoning.

“We’re judging the application that’s been presented, not the application we wish we had. Not the pie-in-the-sky application, but the application we have before us,” said Trustee Katie Gill.

Although a timeline for development isn’t set in stone, the project team provided an outline for construction and full buildout of Red Rocks Ranch.

Ventana Capital expects the earliest construction to begin in late 2018 with 2020 marking the earliest occupants moving in. The team estimates full buildout will take place anywhere from 2025 to 2030.

The school

The new development will provide either cash-in-lieu or land dedication to Jeffco Public Schools to one day be used for a school for Red Rocks Ranch residents. This was an issue of utmost concern to Lakewood and Morrison residents throughout the planning process, and it worried board members, too.

Protecting Red Rocks Elementary is a top priority for most Morrison board members and residents, and there was some debate last Thursday about whether cash-in-lieu or land dedication would offer the most security for the school.

New board member Paul Sutton recommended offering only cash-in-lieu as a means of insurance for Red Rocks Elementary. He said the elementary school could become a valuable real estate asset for the district if it was offered land dedication.

Gill, on the other hand, didn’t feel comfortable doing so.

“If you know me, you know how much I treasure our school. … I recognize that a school in the Rooney Valley could pose a threat to our school,” she said. “ … Having that school in your community is a really important part of our community for me and for many families, and I’m not comfortable taking that away from the families in the Red Rocks Ranch or other areas of the Rooney Valley.”

Ultimately, Sutton put his recommendation to a vote, but it lost 4-3.

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