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Littleton council rejects storage facility on Santa Fe

Members cite public opposition, poor fit with river corridor


The proposal to build a self-storage facility south of the Denver Seminary on South Santa Fe Drive died at the Aug. 15 Littleton city council meeting, with members largely citing public outcry and a poor fit for their long-term goals for the river corridor.

City council voted 6-1 against a rezoning of 6505-6509 South Santa Fe Drive that would have allowed Cornerstone Storage to build a two-building, 800-unit self-storage facility on land currently owned by Gary Sutton, the former proprietor of Valley Feed & Supply in downtown Littleton. The proposal also would have expanded parking for Arapahoe Mental Health Center, on the south side of the property.

The failure of the rezoning proposal means a temporary reprieve for George and Donna Franz, the couple who have rented a home on the property since 1962 and looked after owner Gary Sutton's mother until her death in 2002. The construction of storage units on the site would have necessitated tearing down their home.

“Thank goodness,” Donna said. “I'm glad to have a little more time. We need to solve our health issues before we try to tackle this again."

Sutton put the 4-acre parcel up for sale two years ago, and Cornerstone Storage sought to purchase the property to build storage units and “garage condo” units, often used to store cars.

The sale was contingent on city council changing the site's zoning to allow for industrial uses. With the rezoning proposal defeated, Cornerstone will back out of the sale.

Sutton said with Cornerstone out of the picture, he'll put the property back on the market and look for another buyer. He said he received plenty of interest from prospective buyers last time the property was up for sale, but thought Cornerstone was the best fit.

City council largely disagreed.

“I'm not going to get into a debate about whether storage units are necessary,” said District 4 councilwoman Debbie Brinkman, in whose district the property sits. “My big concern is the location. I'm quite dismayed how this is considered encouraging more creative and effective use of land.”

Brinkman said as a member of the South Platte Working Group, she has strived to make the river corridor attractive and engaging, and felt the storage unit proposal did little toward that goal.

Storage units are out of sync with the city's plan for the river, said District 1 Councilmember Bill Hopping.

“For the last 20-odd years we've been trying to reclaim the river, avoid industrial uses along it, and activate it with quality of life and recreational assets, so we can enjoy that gift we've been given,” Hopping said, citing Reynold's Landing, Breckenridge Brewery and Hudson Gardens as examples of positive assets on the corridor.

“People want recreation, retail, entertainment and housing,” Hopping said. “Nothing in our plans encourages storage units.”

At-large Councilmember Peggy Cole said she received 38 emails about the proposal — all opposed.

The sole vote in favor of the rezoning proposal came from at-large Councilmember Doug Clark, who said the storage units were a low-impact use of the space.

“It's probably one of the lowest traffic uses and people uses you can have next to the river,” Clark said. “You don't have to worry about pets getting out. You don't have to worry about large numbers of cars and people coming in.”

Clark said the units, topping out at 51 feet on the Santa Fe side, would be less visibly intrusive than had been suggested by some commenters in the public hearing.

“I think it's possible to design storage units so that they're disquised very well,” Clark said, whose “yes” vote was conditional on the project's river-facing side being screened with evergreen trees. “I don't know what you could put there and how you could design it to be less of an impact. The western half is one-story garages. I went and looked at Breckenridge Brewery and that building is huge. So is Aspen Grove. I think we need to be consistent.”

The Franzes, whose little bungalow sits on the property's east end, have been house-hunting since being told of the looming sale, with little luck. Donna said while the temporary reprieve is welcome news, she's not sure what the future holds.

“We've been sitting in limbo because housing is so hard to find," Donna said. "Gosh, now they're putting on the TV that housing is so short they want people to open their homes to the elderly and double up. That's scary.”


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