Voters will decide on Willowcroft

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The residents of Columbine Valley will decide what happens to the Willowcroft property, since the town board has declined to reverse its decision to allow patio homes to rise on the site.

“The board voted unanimously not to reverse their decision and to send the issue to the citizens,” reports JD McCrumb, town administrator. “We will have a special election on Dec. 10. Everyone who spoke at the (town board’s Oct. 15) meeting did so in support of the project as approved by the board.”

The minutes of the meeting will not be available until the board’s Nov. 19 meeting, but Mayor Gale Christy summarized it at the request of the Independent.

“There were numerous comments made to the point that the proposed patio home development by Taylor Morrison would fit in the neighborhood in which it is located,” he writes in an email. He notes the site is surrounded by two patio-home neighborhoods, an active shopping center, an office park and Town Hall.

“There is one single-family, estate-type neighborhood east of the subject property,” he writes. “High-quality, single-story ranch homes anticipated to sell for $750,000 to $800,000 seemed to the board to fit nicely in this part of Columbine Valley. In addition, the architecture or design of the patio homes was considered by board members to be very attractive.”

Many opponents of the plan have pointed out the density of the project, 2.95 units per acre, is higher than the town’s master plan technically allows. The company plans 41 single-story patio homes and one large estate home for the nearly 10-acre site.

However, Christy notes higher density is allowed if the board considers it a “superior plan.”

“The board was of the opinion that the proposed patio-home development met the requirement as a superior development and even exceeded stated goals in the master plan,” writes Christy.

The plan calls for 25 percent of the land to be open space, and there will be a 6-foot brick fence on the three open sides of the property. The developer will build an additional turn lane on Middlefield Road and Bowles Avenue, along with a landscaped gateway feature.

“Plus, the attitude exhibited by the developer at the many meetings and public hearings was very professional, cooperative and responsive to the requests of the neighbors, the planning commission and the board of trustees, a factor very much appreciated by the board,” writes Christy. “Thus, a ‘superior’ development is expected by our town.”

Neighbors had expressed a great deal of concern about increased traffic, so the developer agreed to limit access from Middlefield Road and provide an emergency access only onto Brookhaven Lane.

“Taylor Morrison presented a plan which is intended to become a positive addition to our community, and the board recognized and accepted that plan accordingly,” writes Christy.

On the other side of town from Willowcroft sits the 103-acre Tuck property, which McCrumb expects to be up for a rezone sometime next year. Opponents of the Willowcroft plat fear it sets a precedent for higher densities that could affect what’s allowed on Tuck.

“My message to the residents of Columbine Valley regarding what the trustees have approved is that actions speak louder than words,” Brian Macaulay, who launched the effort to force the Willowcroft matter to a vote of the public, said in October. “If they acted in this way on this project, when it clearly runs counter to the guidelines of the master plan, what reason is there to think that they will not do the same for every other future development in our town, such as (the Tuck farm)? The residents need to send a clear message to the trustees that this will not be allowed. The trustees must respect the long-term vision of our town.”

But Christy notes the two sites are in vastly different neighborhoods, with Tuck surrounded by low density, South Platte Park and the equestrian center.

“A precedent will not come into play as the Tuck property plans are being considered by the planning and zoning commission and the board of trustees, in my opinion and in the opinion of the town’s professional planner,” Christy said.

Garrett Baum of Taylor Morrison has said if the patio homes are rejected, the company will probably build two-story family dwellings instead, which he says would increase population and traffic even more. He’ll now have to wait to decide until the Dec. 10 all-mail ballots are counted.

“My personal thoughts regarding the referendum … are simply that I hope our electorate becomes well-informed and votes on the facts of the matter rather than on misinformation, rumor and innuendo,” says Christy. “For instance, the Willowcroft plan in no way sets a precedent for other, future developments in Columbine Valley. Let the Willowcroft plan stand or fail on its own merits.”