Last week, Steve Anderson spoke out about his ongoing attempts to rezone his property from commercial to residential, and the barricades he feels some Littleton residents have thrown up in front of him.
This week, two of those residents spoke about why they feel they must.
“I feel like all of a sudden nobody cares about the current citizens, all they care about is getting land developers in here and making them happy,” said Susan Burgstiner, who owns Marketing on Demand in downtown Littleton and lives nearby on Sterne Parkway.
Burgstiner and Paul Bingham are active with Citizens for Rational Development, a group fighting Anderson’s plan and other high-density developments throughout the city.
At the heart of the dispute with Anderson is the old sheriff’s building at Littleton Boulevard and Bemis Street, built in 1959 as the Intermountain Rural Electric Association’s headquarters. It’s on the city’s list of merit, though not a legally protected historic property.
Anderson bought it in 2003 and created office space for his law firm and other businesses. Alliance Residential wants to buy the property and rezone it from commercial to allow a 250-unit, six-story apartment complex called Broadstone at Littleton Station.
CRD is adamantly opposed, listing concerns such as traffic, parking, height, mass, crowding and, especially, neighborhood character.
“I’d love to see that building at Bowles and Santa Fe, located in a neighborhood where it meets current standards and zoning, and where it wouldn’t impact any homeowners,” said Burgstiner.
CRD says Anderson cares only about making money and his own property rights while forgetting everyone else in the neighborhood has property rights, too.
“He’s not just asking to build something, he’s asking to change the rules that were in place that everybody else lived by when they bought their property,” said Burgstiner.
Bingham says whatever ends up being built there needs to conform to the Littleton Boulevard Corridor Study, which calls for a maximum of three stories, an attractive west facade, congruence with the existing neighborhood character and lower density. City planners now say this plan does, but they rejected an earlier version.
But CRD worries that the quest for the dollar will rule the day, as some members think it did earlier this year, when city council allowed the owners of the downtown Nevada Place apartment complex to double the density of its second phase.
“City council has set a precedent that we are all terrified of,” said Burgstiner.
Anderson believes there’s a silent majority out there that supports the project, but Burgstiner begs to differ. She notes that CRD members have been pounding the pavement, gathering signatures to petition issues onto the November ballot. One would require at least a 5-2 council vote to approve a rezone rather than just a simple majority. Of the 60 or so people Burgstiner has talked to, she says only two have refused to sign.
“They are silent, or they don’t have time to show up,” she said. “But if you give them a vehicle to have their voice heard, they use it.”
There are lots of people who don’t need urging to make themselves heard, and Burgstiner acknowledges they’re not always polite about it. There have been public comments suggesting apartments attract “riff raff” and transients who aren’t invested in the community.
“It’s not about the renters, it’s about the impact of the building on the existing neighbors,” said Burgstiner. “This group gets accused of being naysaying, no-change old farts. It’s not true. We have some younger people. We have some business owners. And we’re not against all high density, we’re against the projects that are going to ruin the lives of the people who are already here. And I think they’re making a mistake about calling us that, just like some of ours are making a mistake by calling renters names.”
Anderson says he doesn’t yet know what he’ll do if council rejects this plan, although current zoning allows for pretty much any commercial use with very few restrictions.
CRD, on the other hand, knows exactly what it will do.
“We’re going to elect some new council people, certainly,” said Bingham. “And then we’re going to drive it to a vote of the people.”