City council spikes proposed housing development

Proposal would have rezoned north Littleton industrial lot to build 85 homes

Posted 12/18/19

Littleton City Council soundly rejected a developer's request to rezone a north Littleton parcel from industrial to residential, spiking plans to build 85 three-story houses on an 8.5 acre …

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City council spikes proposed housing development

Proposal would have rezoned north Littleton industrial lot to build 85 homes

Posted
Littleton City Council soundly rejected a developer's request to rezone a north Littleton parcel from industrial to residential, spiking plans to build 85 three-story houses on an 8.5 acre lot.
 
Council voted 6-1 at their Dec. 17 meeting to reject the rezoning request from Richmond Homes, with only councilmember Pat Driscoll voting in favor of the developer's plans.
 
“We absolutely want and need the right developments,” said Mayor Pro Tem Scott Melin. “But this proposed development does not help Littleton.”
 
The proposal to redevelop the south end of the property at Delaware Street and Powers Avenue came to council with a recommendation for approval from the city's community development staff. However, city economic development director Denise Stephens told council that the rezone would cost Littleton one of its few remaining vacant industrial parcels.
 
While the property tax generated by such a development would have exceeded what the current vacant land produces, property tax only makes up 4% of the city's general fund, Stephens said.
 
“Once it's rezoned, it'll stay rezoned,” Stephens said. “We lose the opportunity for an office or industrial user who will create jobs.”
 
Representatives of Richmond Homes and Redland, an engineering firm, said the development would be a boon to the neighborhood.
 
Jason Pock, representing Richmond, said the development would take down the fence currently surrounding the lot, set back the sidewalks, and create an attractive property that pedestrians could pass through.
 
Susan Wade, a senior planner with Redland, said the development could “improve” the traditionally lower-income neighborhood, which is home to a number of apartment buildings.
 
“They say a rising tide lifts all ships, and we want to be that rising tide in the neighborhood,” Wade said, displaying pictures of dumpsters in the neighborhood stuffed with mattresses and couches. “Redevelopment raises home values and income levels and even (children's) test scores, and attracts higher-income residents with increased shopping power.”
 
That characterization was unnerving to Camille Ruff, who lives nearby and was one of nearly a dozen residents who spoke against the plan.
 
“These developments drive people like me out of the neighborhood,” Ruff said. “The city zoned this industrial for a reason.”
 
Former Littleton mayor Phil Cernanec made his first appearance in council chambers in more than two years to speak out against the plan.
 
Cernanec said the development, consisting of multi-story houses estimated to be worth more than half a million dollars each, “makes no provision for affordability, senior accessibility or disabled accessibility.”

The homes are poorly suited to elderly or disabled residents because they require stairs to move between floors, Cernanec said.
 
“These are not unique to Littleton,” Cernanec said. “This is not creative.”
 
Melin said the price of the homes didn't address Littleton's housing needs.
 
"We need affordable housing, workforce housing, starter housing," Melin said.
 
A landmark 2017 housing study commissioned by city council concluded that Littleton was woefully deficient in workforce and starter housing, as well as disabled-accessible housing and housing that allows seniors to age in place.
 
Councilmember Pat Driscoll was adamant that the development was a good fit, saying the property has been on the market since 2011, and vacant for decades before that, and it was time to jump on a chance to see the property developed.
 
“(The owner) looked for a viable tenant,” Driscoll said. “They're not going to find a viable tenant. Nobody's going to move in there ... We're going to be having the same discussion if they want to put in a distribution facility, because it'll be too much traffic, or a manufacturing facility because it's too much noise. Eighty-five units is not a big ask.”
 
A developer explored building a self-storage facility on the lot in recent years, Stephens said, but pulled out after determining the local market was saturated. The site is unlikely to draw retailers because it doesn't have visibility from major thoroughfares, she added.
 
Councilmember Carol Fey said the city's comprehensive plan, passed by council in October, places a huge emphasis on community character, which she said the proposal would strip from the neighborhood.
 
“By putting single-family housing in an existing industrial and multifamily neighborhood, we're changing community character.”
 
Mayor Pro Tem Melin said the development would do little for Littleton.
 
“We need jobs, we need office space, and we especially need sales tax revenues,” Melin said. “It's not in the city's best interest to give up one of our last remaining industrial zoned parcels ... I believe this proposal meets the developer's market needs and does not meet Littleton's civic needs.”

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