Council weighs controversial Westminster Upland development on beloved local lands – CBS Denver
WESTMINSTER, Colorado (CBS4) – On Monday evening, Westminster City Council began the process of approving or denying a huge development that will cover some of the last large plots of open land near Denver. The property, owned by the Pillar of Fire Church, includes what many people locally call ‘The Farm’, north of the former Castle of Westminster.
The farm spans the property from 84th to 88th ave between Federal and Lowell boulevards. The castle and 100 acres around it would remain with the church.
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âIt’s at a highest point in the metro area. You have a 365 (view) of the Front Range. You see a perfect picture of the city center. Pikes Peak, Longs Peak. You can’t find this anywhere. There’s nothing like it left in the metro area, âsaid Karen Ray, organizer of a group opposed to the project called Save the Farm.
Oread Capital Development has been designing development for years.
âWe have radically changed our plans to incorporate public comment,â said Jeff Handlin of Head Capital & Development who appointed him Uplands.
âWe attended over 200 neighborhood and town meetings. Some of them in large rooms, others at kitchen tables.
Handlin says they have been sensitive to the concerns of the community.
âAnd we incorporated a lot of what we heard. More open space, closer to the edges. To better serve existing neighborhoods.
Critics worry about the loss of open space, increased traffic, water use and type of housing.
âIt’s not an upscale part of Westminster or the nearby suburbs. It has the most diverse population in the city. They’re tiny post-WWII houses, âsaid Ray.
His group has collected 10,000 opposing signatures, and part of the opposition is coming from outside Westminster as people voice concern over the elimination of open space for more housing.
The developers are quick to point out that there is a need for more housing and say they have included affordable housing.
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âThe loudest voices aren’t necessarily the majority, so there are a lot of people in this community who support this Uplands project,â Handlin said.
He says development is also heavy on what they call “missing” housing, meaning in a mid-price range. Much of the land, he also points out, was zoned for housing development over a hundred years ago.
The Pillar of Fire Church has kept a farm on the grounds north of 84th Avenue for decades. It is part of the community. The agreement to sell the land to the developer depends on the approval of the development.
âLandowners have private property rights that we recognize in this city and state and while the immediate neighbors, some of them may not want a change, I think we need to remember that a landowner private people also have rights, âHandlin says.
Ray says she would like the city to buy the land with the help of potentially available federal money.
âIt should be preserved as much as possible for the public. For the next generation and the next generation after that.
The cost would be high. The land can be attractive to locals, but also to developers, as the metropolitan area tries to meet the demand for housing. Handlin points out that the farm is not currently accessible, but would be with development.
âThis earth, as long as it is open, in physical space, is private. Private fenced property, and by developing this 47 acres of parkland we are inviting neighbors for the very first time.
Ray claims there isn’t enough of it and wants it as open space.
âWe have a world and we’re going to leave it to the next generation, how are we going to leave it? What kind of city, what kind of cities are we rebuilding?
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The council will continue to hear comments from the public and discuss the project before a first vote which could take place as early as Wednesday when there is another meeting. Annexation of several acres of county land is also under discussion to make the project possible. After a first vote, if it is adopted, it will also have to go through a second vote.