The troopers who remained in the gallery at 12:30 a.m. on June 25 seemed surprised when all seven of Littleton’s planning-board members voted against the proposal to build a six-story apartment building across the street from the iconic courthouse.
“We’ve been working hard for this for a long time,” said Paul Bingham, who helped lead a citizens’ movement against the plan.
The board members openly struggled with the decision as the 5 ½ hour meeting drew to a close, but agreed in the end that the sheer mass and high density of the project is not in line with the city’s current comprehensive plan or the Littleton Boulevard corridor study.
“This was a very difficult case here,” said board member Mark Rudnicki. “I keep going back to the existing zoning versus the new (planned development). It’s an existing use by right.”
He said the project’s opponents either don’t understand or don’t care that the current zoning allows things like car lots, a parking garage, a movie theater or even a drive-through restaurant. There are no height limits, open-space requirements or minimum setbacks.
Andy Clay of Alliance Residential Company stressed that his team worked diligently to assuage the neighbors’ concerns. As a last-ditch effort, they even lowered the number of units to 250 from an original high of 325 and split the building into two smaller ones.
“We were very open that while we hoped they would support us by the end of it, that wasn’t necessarily our point,” said Clay. But, he said, the end product reflects much of the input they got over the last year.
City planners originally opposed the project, but reversed their stance with the changes and a dozen conditions they imposed on Alliance. Those include widening Bemis Street, installing a traffic light at Littleton Boulevard, and adding a small café on the corner to incorporate some retail.
The public was not sold.
“We, the people of Littleton, would like something that’s compatible, period. We don’t want something that compatible with conditions,” said Bingham.
About 50 were there in opposition to Broadstone, with only five speaking in favor.
Elizabeth Dosher was there to represent a key demographic Alliance says it would attract – a young “emerging family.” She looked around the room at the abundance of gray heads and wondered where those people would be in a few years.
“We are the future of this community, and I think that we need to think outside of the box and down the road to when I’m 50, 60, 70, 80,” she said.
“Encouraging new demographics to Littleton is where we need to be heading,” said board member Karina Elrod, who was more concerned about the project’s mass than its density. “I do believe a project like this would bring economic vitality to the city. I am in full support of that.”
Some in the audience weren’t thrilled at the thought of a bunch of renters of any age on the corner.
“When we encourage a variety of housing stock and types of people, we may not get what we had in mind,” said Betty Harris. “Renters of any age will need roommates to afford the rent. The young who take the light rail to downtown (Denver) to work will stay downtown to shop for things and sex and entertainment. Littleton can’t compete with Denver.”
Clay said 60 percent of the units would have two bedrooms and rent for up to $1,800 a month.
There were all the usual worries as well – views, traffic, pollution, parking, overcrowding of people and pets, overuse of parks and amenities, noise, strain on infrastructure.
“There’s a lot of reasons those places go downhill, and this one will too, eventually,” said Sharleen Williams. “You should fix the north neighborhood before adding to the problem we already have.”
The project isn’t doomed yet, as city council has the final say. It’s set for first reading on July 2.