Four homes on a combined 1.84-acre lot behind Stevens Elementary School is in the middle of a developer versus neighborhood battle that will be decided by Wheat Ridge voters this November. Ballot …
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Four homes on a combined 1.84-acre lot behind Stevens Elementary School is in the middle of a developer versus neighborhood battle that will be decided by Wheat Ridge voters this November. Ballot question 2E asks whether or not 4000-4060 Upham Street should be rezoned from R-3 to a Planned Residential Development (PRD) which could mean higher density.
The developer,UphamPartners LLC, wants to turn the four homes on the properties into a small community consisting of 38, three-story townhome type structures in nine buildings with a “pocket park”, according to Neil Shea, a principle at UphamPartners. There would be no rooftop patios and each home would have its own front yard.
Right now four homes have been commonly referred to as “blighted.” Shea said they bought the property from a New York-based developer. The land had not publicly been up for sale. The developer did minimal improvements over the 20 years they owned the properties.
UphamPartners started doing “due diligence” in Nov. of 2017, and began talking with surrounding neighbors and starting the city planning procedures. According to the developer, the immediate neighbors to the property were accepting of the plans.
Those plans, including the rezoning, were approved by the city, but several Wheat Ridge residents were not so accepting. The group launched a petition campaign against the zoning change. The group garnered more than 2,000 signatures, more than the 1,642 validated signatures needed to challenge the rezoning at the ballot box.
Judy Capra who spread-headed the opposition to the Upham development says it doesn’t fit Wheat Ridge and will increase density significantly. She takes into consideration several other developments already going up like one next to Vectra Bank along 38th Avenue, the apartment complex on the rise next to Lucky’s Market on Wadsworth among others and thinks it’s all just too much.
“If you get a three-story building in here, they just don’t go in here,” said Capra. She cites the 2012 Census that listed about 14,000 residential units in Wheat Ridge. Since then, 3,400 residential units have been approved.
“That’s like a fourth as many people as we’re adding. Shouldn’t we just see how this is affecting the quality of our life instead of saying ‘more more’... so there need to be limits,” Capra said. Shea said at the time they started the process, they didn’t hear much concern from Wheat Ridge residents — at one neighborhood meeting 20 people showed up and he said the main concern was parking. They kept in touch with surrounding neighbors. In fact, Robert McCloud who lives next to the proposed development spoke in favor of the townhomes at the Sept. 24 candidate forum meeting. He spoke about the run-down condition of the four houses and praised the plan of UphamPartners: “I want to see a nice product, 38 townhomes, right next to my house, as opposed to the four blighted homes that are there.”
Capra challenged the idea that run-down properties should be given extra leeway in redevelopment at a recent city council candidate forum. “Should we be rewarding developers for letting their property run down so they can scrape and do what they want? The city should have been after them to maintain those properties.”
The 1.84 acres in question is zoned R-3, or Residential 3 and the Wheat Ridge Zoning Code would allow a maximum of 21 units no taller than 35 feet (three stories) with their respective setbacks.
UphamPartners LLC. wants to change that zone to a PRD which allows 21 units per acre and requires much more investment into infrastructure. Shea said they have slotted $3,000,000 for infrastructure improvements like sidewalks, lighting, access points into the community, and sewage upgrades. Included in that budget is upgrading the severely outdated retention pond behind Stevens Elementary, which the property backs up against. The developers are planning a long-term maintenance plan with Jefferson County Public Schools that the development would pay for through its property taxes.
She said that because the development will be ran as a special metro district the homeowners will be responsible for the upkeep of the sewer system installed specifically for that community. “But when the developer is done it’s going to be these 38 property owners who are supposed to be taking care of this, maintaining this,” according to Capra.
“I’m sensitive towards their feelings.” Shea said of the opposition. “I understand that most of them are multi-generational, their 4th and 5th generation folks ... they’re fearful that their community is changing. They’re feeling the growing pains of the greater Denver area and people starting to spread out from Denver and move into communities like Wheat Ridge and they’re fearful it’s going to lose its character.”
But he argues that the Upham plan makes sense where it is, and wouldn’t dream of putting a project it in an R-2 district.
If the zoning goes back to R-3, the project wouldn’t be economical. Shea said they would either split the lots and sell one to another developer who, Shea guesses would put in low-income housing or slot homes with no upgraded water system, and could still be three stories. Or they would sell both lots altogether.
UphamPartners is currently challenging the ballot petition in court. Though Measure 2E will be on the ballots of Wheat Ridge residents, it was unclear at press time what would happen if a court later ruled the petition process to have not met lawful requirements.
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