Planning Commission recommends rezoning for Foothills land

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By Vicky Gits

The Jeffco Planning Commission voted 7-0 on Sept. 12 to recommend rezoning 10.2 acres of park district land next to the Woodmar community at South Wadsworth Boulevard and West Coal Mine Avenue so it can be sold and developed.

The property consists of two parcels on the east and west sides of Wadsworth, north of Coal Mine. The mostly barren, dusty lots are dotted with weeds, junk wood and prairie dog mounds. The land was never developed for its intended purpose as a park. Both corners across the street have commercial buildings, including a FirstBank and Carpet Exchange.

In addition to the future property owner, the main beneficiary of the rezoning is the Foothills Park & Recreation District, which stands to gain about $1.5 million from the land sale.

Members of the Planning Commission and the developer, Jon Hauser of Drake Real Estate Services, spent about an hour and a half working out an agreement that would lessen the impact on the neighboring subdivision, which has houses backing up to the vacant land.

Only a handful of people from the neighborhood turned out Sept. 12 to express their opposition to the rezoning, which would eliminate a protective buffer of vacant land between the housing development and a major intersection.

Ultimately, the planning board gave its approval on the following conditions:

• Building height is limited to 35 feet, or 46 feet for architectural details.

• Loading and unloading, trash storage and truck parking may not be done from the back of the buildings facing the houses.

• The developer must install a privacy fence along the rear of the complex.

• Restaurants or brewpubs with liquor licenses are allowed, but prohibited are taverns, lounges, pool halls, gas stations, fireworks stands, car repair shops or rental outlets.

• There must be a 20-foot setback from the property line to the commercial center.

• Deceleration lanes must be installed on Coal Mine Avenue.

The Foothills Park & Rec District has offered the land for sale as part of an effort to sell surplus land and raise funds for the district. Two other highly marketable parcels are also on the market.

Four people from the neighborhood spoke against developing the land, including Natasha McCombs of the Columbine Civic Association.

"We don't have wildlife anywhere else. It's wonderful to have a little open space in such a highly developed area," McCombs said. "Every other quadrant on Wadsworth is developed."

She said Coal Mine Avenue has bad sight lines and a concrete surface that result in many auto accidents, and that a shopping center would make matters worse.

Resident Doug Clark said the recreation district ignored a major provision in the deed preventing development when it decided to sell the land. He said he objected to some of the permitted uses, such as arcades, brewpubs, convenience stores and drive-through restaurants.

Roger Rose said he purchased his house in 1976 because of the vacant land and that development would bring more crime to the area.

"One nice thing about unincorporated Jeffco is space," Rose said. "Why build up everything? Why do you have to detract from the livability of the neighborhood?"

There was some discussion about working out an agreement to return a couple of commercially useless narrow strips on Wadsworth to the park district, but nothing was decided.

The Planning Commission considered the idea of limiting hours of operation for businesses in the development, but eventually abandoned it after the developer argued it would present too much of an obstacle for attracting tenants.

The developer repeatedly said the available land area is too small for a bigger setback. He thinks the location could accommodate about 15,000 square feet of building space on the northeast corner and from 25,000 to 30,000 square feet on the northwest corner.

Future details of size, scale and architecture will be reviewed by the county in another process.

Hauser said he had no tenants signed up as yet but had been talking to a coffee shop, a men's franchise hair-cutting salon, a bank, a mattress store, a cell-phone store and a day-care operator.

Hauser said the company was known for building good neighborhood shopping centers with family values. "Nobody wants what we call ‘bad-boy’ uses, such as pawn shops, pool halls and bars," Hauser said. "When you fill it with bad uses, it just becomes a bad center."

Another hearing on the matter will be held Tuesday, Oct. 2, before the Board of County Commissioners, which makes the final decision.

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