In marathon proceedings that occupied three long nights of public input and deliberations, Westminster City Council voted Tuesday morning to approve a mixed-use development with up to 2,350 homes for a swath of farmland framed by mountain views that many city residents had fought fiercely to preserve.
The vote, which came down shortly after 1 a.m., was 5-2. Councilmen Obi Ezeadi and Bruce Baker voted against the project.
The Uplands proposal has been one of the most contentious issues to come before elected leaders in Westminster in years and represented a baptism by fire for a newly elected city council that only took their oaths of office six weeks ago.
“I can’t vote on emotion,” said Mayor Nancy McNally, who reported driving past the property at the northwest corner of W. 84th Avenue and Federal Boulevard three times over the weekend to immerse herself in the site. “It’s a private person who owns this land — it is not open space.”
Ezeadi said he didn’t think the Uplands project would help bring grocery stores or other amenities to a part of Westminster that has struggled economically compared to other parts of the city.
“I would feel I was ignoring public comment if I were to vote yes,” he said.
Hearings in front of City Council have stretched across three evenings this week and last, with proceedings going past midnight each time. On Wednesday, just shy of three hours of voicemails regarding the project were played for the council. That followed several hours of in-person and phone-in testimony.
On Monday night, the council spent hours wringing concessions from and placing conditions on the developer, Oread Capital & Development, that included commitments to affordable housing and preservation of view corridors at the site.
Uplands will bring up to 2,350 housing units to five parcels covering 233 acres in south Westminster, along with tens of thousands of square feet of retail and commercial space. Oread said Uplands will provide the “missing middle” in housing — the more compact, attached units that are more attainable for the working-class buyer.
The developer also claimed that the project will provide access to public parkland and open space — a total of 47 acres that it will dedicate to Westminster as part of the deal — that for decades has been fenced off as private property. The land is currently owned by the Pillar of Fire church.
Most of the public comment has been against the project, with opponents claiming that the project is too dense and too tall for a neighborhood that is largely made up of older single-family homes. While some neighbors said there isn’t sufficient water for the project, most focused on the loss of a 150-acre farm — with its largely uninterrupted view of the setting sun — that thousands of motorists pass every day.
Uplands’ plans call for five-story buildings along Federal Boulevard, blocking an expansive view out to the foothills. Buildings would get shorter the further west the property goes. The entire project could take 15 years or more to complete.
Elaine Adair, who belongs to the group Save the Farm, said she and her husband would leave the city if Uplands got the green light.
“We’re not interested in being forced to witness the heartbreaking and soul-crushing sight of this beautiful farmland being destroyed,” she told the council last week.
Westminster native Paloma Merida, who attends the University of Colorado at Boulder, said the city shouldn’t be writing off one of the last large undisturbed parcels of land in a metro area that has seen relentless growth and a continued carving up of prairie and farmland for new subdivisions and strip malls.
“Westminster has been my home and safe place for all my life, and now Uplands development jeopardizes that,” Merida said last week. “Destroying one of the largest and last open spaces would lead to a dark future for the city of Westminster.”
Save the Farm points to an online petition that has collected more than 10,000 signatures decrying the Uplands project. They have held multiple protests over the proposal, including one in front of city hall as recently as last week.
But not all oppose the project. Ken Ciancio, president of the Westminster Public Schools board of education, testified last week that the district would benefit from new student enrollments emanating from the 6,000-resident community at a time when student numbers are dropping in the city.
“This development would mean a significant number of new students for Westminster Public Schools,” Ciancio said. “Student headcount and the per-pupil funding that comes from the state of Colorado plays a critical and important role in our efforts to provide a quality education for every student in the community.”
The council heard from a number of metro area residents over the past week who said they are looking for exactly the kind of housing options Uplands is offering, which includes 300 units that are considered affordable. Anna DeWitt said for middle-income teachers like herself, an affordable home is nearly impossible to find in a market where house prices have been on the rise for years.
“If you really care about the lives of teachers teaching your children, if you really care about first responders and nurses who have taken care of us during this pandemic, if you care about middle-class workers, you’ll vote in favor of housing that can support them,” DeWitt said during testimony last week.
Source: Read Full Article