Planning commission OKs Foothills parcels for rezoning

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District selling former open space areas

By Emile Hallez

Two Foothills Park & Recreation District land parcels under contract for sale are eligible to be rezoned, the Jeffco planning commission unanimously recommended on Feb. 29, moving the areas one step closer to retail development.

The parcels, at the northeast and northwest corners of South Wadsworth Boulevard and West Coal Mine Avenue, are currently zoned as open space and were originally conveyed to the recreation district years ago by housing developers. Foothills opted to sell the parcels months ago as part of a land-sale package to generate more than $4 million in revenue, a measure board members and staff said is necessary in the face of declining income.

The pending sale, which hinges on the land being rezoned, has angered homeowners who live adjacent to the property.

“One of the main reasons that we bought this home there was that it was property that backed up to open space. I was told that it would always be open space,” Woodmar resident Paul Patricca told the commission.

Area residents have also taken issue with the prospect of adding more retail space in an area they say is already blighted with partially vacant strip malls. Further, several residents emphasized that once the land is developed, it will be lost as open space forever.

“I suggested to Foothills that they are violating the fiduciary duty to the people they are serving … that open space is a very integral part to that quality of life,” said resident John Danyliw, a Realtor who worked with the Woodmar brothers during the area’s development in 1972 and selected his own lot as soon as it was sketched on the company’s drawing board. “Do we need additional retail? Just drive up and down Wadsworth, Kipling, whatever.”

Others contended that whether the land would be transformed into a park or remain in its current state would be preferable to being developed as retail space.

“I live on the corner of Wadsworth and Peakview, and I have traffic, traffic, traffic,” resident Rose Marie Muller said. “People throw out everything from condoms to baby diapers to beer bottles, and I clean that all the time. But I love that corner. My husband and I built that in 1975.”

But regarding the land’s current condition, residents disagreed about whether the large prairie dog colonies are an ecologically important habitat or a suburban nuisance.

“It’s just the way God put it there. It should be left that way,” resident Roger Rose said. “There’s nothing wrong with prairie dogs.”

Residents also contended that neighborhood covenants specifying that the area remain as open space should prevent the land from being rezoned. But county planning staff countered that covenants are not considered in the rezoning process. Additionally, the area’s current designation as open space in the county’s South Plains Area Plan is of no consequence, staff said.

“The covenants do not play into this case or even into the rezoning,” planner Jeanne Shaffer said. “This area is designated as open space, but that doesn’t factor into the review.”

Since the land deed, which was conveyed to Foothills, does not have restrictions, the planning commission had no choice but to approve the eligibility for rezoning, commission member Martha Whitmore said.

“I am terribly troubled that Woodmar represented to homeowners that it was going to be open space but did not put a deed restriction in place,” she said. “The criteria is very clear, and staff have been correct that the criteria have been met.”

Further, commission member Larry Anna said the land would be better utilized as a retail location rather than a prairie dog habitat.

“I know, as a homeowner, if the property around you changes, it can be traumatic. But there can be improvement, too. I think this may be one of those cases,” Anna said. “Even though I don’t live there, I’d rather see this property developed into something more useful, rather than an area for prairie dogs.”

The developer, Drake Real Estate Service, signed a contract to purchase the two parcels from the district for $1.5 million. At a previous community meeting, founder Jon Hauser said the company would make the shopping centers as aesthetically appealing as possible.

The Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the eligibility for rezoning on March 13. Afterward, an additional planning commission meeting to consider a rezoning application must take place, as must another hearing before the county commissioners, who have the ultimate authority in whether the land is rezoned.


Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22.