A developer is suing the City of Littleton after city council rejected its rezoning proposal for a mixed-use development at Mineral Ave. and Santa Fe Drive in May, saying the rejection violated the …
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A developer is suing the City of Littleton after city council rejected its rezoning proposal for a mixed-use development at Mineral Ave. and Santa Fe Drive in May, saying the rejection violated the constitutional right to due process.
Evergreen Devco, a developer with offices in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and California, filed suit against the city on May 31, according to court records.
The lawsuit, which was first reported by BusinessDen, seeks to reverse city council’s 5-2 decision on May 4 to reject Evergreen’s proposal to build a sprawling mixed-use residential and commercial development called RiverPark on a 33-acre site at Mineral and Santa Fe. Evergreen purchased the site for $6.5 million in 2018.
Evergreen filed the zoning amendment proposal in 2018, hoping to rearrange the site’s 1985-vintage zoning, which called for residential uses beside the highway and commercial uses beside the South Platte River. Evergreen wanted to reverse the uses, placing commercial by the highway and residential by the river.
The proposal passed the city’s Planning Commission by a vote of 6-1 in January, then went to city staff for review before presentation to city council.
When the proposal came before city council for a public hearing on April 20, council and the developer found themselves at loggerheads over a stipulation from city staff calling for a sharp curtailing of the development’s surface-level parking.
Evergreen managing partner Tyler Carlson said the move seemed intended to force Evergreen to build a parking garage, which he said would prove so expensive that it would doom the development’s viability.
“Littleton is a suburban community dominated by automobiles,” Carlson said at the hearing. “If you choke parking in the suburbs, you will choke these businesses to death.”
Council tabled the motion for two weeks, seeking a compromise. Staff proposed greater efforts to help Evergreen find funding partners for a parking garage, and Evegreen promised to set aside land for a garage and a pedestrian bridge to connect the development.
But council remained unimpressed, with several councilmembers saying the proposal, which called for 270 multifamily residential units, a 170-bed senior housing facility, and shops and restaurants, didn’t live up to the site’s potential as one of the last large parcels of vacant land in the city.
Evergreen’s lawsuit says council “abused its discretion,” saying councilmembers seemed to reject the plan based on an interpretation of a hypothetical illustrative plan rather than strictly the contents of the developer’s application.
The lawsuit specifically calls out councilmembers Scott Melin and Carol Fey, saying in part their objection to the senior housing facility as high-end was in error as “there was no evidence in the record to support such arbitrary conclusions.”
The lawsuit also rejects Melin’s urging for Evergreen to wait for the outcome of Littleton’s forthcoming Unified Land Use Code (ULUC), an overhaul of city zoning expected to be ratified in October.
“The proposed new Code has not yet even been published, much less has it gone through the often-lengthy process of consideration, which may or may not lead to approval,” the lawsuit reads in part.
The City of Littleton responded to a request for comment with a statement from City Attorney Reid Betzing:
“The City believes the application was properly denied by the City Council when evaluating all the facts presented at the hearing and applying them to the City’s adopted criteria. The City continues to work with Evergreen Devco, Inc. going forward on delivering their possible development project(s).”
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