Rezone of former HP property delayed after nearby homeowners voice concerns – Greeley Tribune
Mara Watson says she knows her family took a risk a month ago when they moved into a home just east of West Ridge Academy in Greeley. No, the risk wasn’t skyrocketing mortgage rates or ballooning inflation. It wasn’t high water bills from a thirsty lawn or errant skateboards from neighborhood kids.
The risk was the empty lot behind her new home.
“We didn’t know what would go into that empty lot,” Watson told the Greeley City Council on Tuesday during its regular meeting, “but we didn’t think it would be an apartment complex.”
Watson was one of 10 people who expressed concerns to council about a Greeley developer’s application for a rezone of about 15 acres that separate West Ridge from a neighborhood of single-family homes to the east.
The property in question formerly contained the Hewlett Packard printing division building, which was emptied in 2003 after HP moved about 1,600 jobs into Fort Collins and Loveland. The building remained vacant for more than 15 years as the landowner awaited a new tenant, but it was torn down when no serious interest materialized and the building became a repeat target of vandalism.
LaSalle Investors LLC of Greeley has indicated an apartment complex would work well on the now-empty spot given Greeley’s dire need for affordable housing. The developer has therefore sought a rezone of the property from Industrial Low Intensity to Residential High Density.
In Greeley, multi-family dwellings like apartment complexes require a zoning designation of Residential Medium Density (R-M) or Residential High Density (R-H), or other similar designations that include mixed uses. Neighborhoods of single-family homes tend to be zoned Residential Estate or Residential Low Intensity, although they still can be built in higher-density zones.
A representative of the developer said Tuesday that a rezone of the property to R-H doesn’t mean an apartment complex for the site is guaranteed – after all, the homes in the neighborhood to the east are zoned R-H. Rather, it simply puts the developer on the path to build some sort of housing on the property, he said, although what type of housing would be built would be dictated in part by what the city’s housing market indicates is needed.
But some who live in the single-family homes that border the property in question said they believe the developer is set on building an apartment complex, a prospect they warned would overwhelm their streets with traffic and endanger neighborhood kids.
“There’s a plot close to this that’s already zoned Residential High Density that’s for sale,” said Trish Trombino, who said she lives in a home east of the property in question. “If another complex goes up there, too, that’s a worst-case scenario for us.
“We’re trending in the wrong direction by building more rental units in Greeley instead of more single-family housing.”
Nearby residents also complained that the Greeley Planning Commission recently approved the rezone on a 4-0 vote in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Three commission members were absent, the neighbors complained, and the time of the meeting made it difficult for working families to be present to offer their input.
The developer’s attorney said Tuesday that a rezone to residential is in the best interests of the neighbors if only because, under the property’s current industrial zoning designation, a number of businesses could be built on the site with minimal pushback from council or city staff, including an auto dealership or a hotel. The developer thinks those sorts of uses aren’t compatible with the neighborhood, the attorney said.
The developer’s representative and city staff pointed to a recent traffic study that claims traffic in the area would actually decrease were the property zoned R-H because of the potential for high traffic numbers under the current industrial designation. But neighbors disputed the study’s findings given a number of recent and upcoming changes to the area.
“A hotel is going in, Tointon Academy is going in, a new streetlight is going in,” said Kimberly Tiba, who also said she lives in the homes east of the property. “This traffic study isn’t accurate.”
Tiba also said Greeley-Evans School District 6 told her it’s unsafe for her child to cross 71st Avenue to get to school about four blocks from her home.
“A 12-year-old girl in our neighborhood got hit by a car on the way to get her mail,” Tiba said. “Do not ignore our concerns about this. Kids from West Ridge come cruising down our roads during lunch already.”
Ward I Councilman Tommy Butler said 71st Avenue being so unsafe that the school district is warning parents is news to him.
“That was alarming,” Butler said. “I’d like to see that in a work session. And perhaps we should look at traffic issues in this area, too.”
Ward II Councilwoman Deb DeBoutez said she would like to see the parcel rezoned away from industrial as soon as possible.
“And then we can address some of these other issues later,” DeBoutez said, potentially during a site proposal review.
But at-large Councilmen Brett Payton and Ed Clark, Ward III Councilman Johnny Olson and Ward IV Councilman Dale Hall said while they agree the industrial designation should go, they do have concerns about elevating the property to a high-density designation.
“It’s just too intense right now,” Hall said. “I’m uncomfortable making this R-H. I’m OK with Residential Medium Intensity.”
Interim Deputy City Manager Becky Safarik noted zoning changes are mostly affected at the request of developers rather than at the whim of council. When Hall asked if council could amend the developer’s request and designate the property R-M instead, Safarik said the developer would instead have to restart the whole application process.
But as council members debated what action they should take, the developer’s attorney stepped forward to speak again.
“The applicant is willing to consider some of these issues that have been raised,” he said, “and we ask that this matter be continued at a later date.”
Council voted 6-0, with Mayor John Gates absent, to reschedule the rezone ordinance final reading to July 19.
— Trenton Sperry is the government and politics reporter for the NoCo Optimist. Have a tip? Let the Optimist know at TheNoCoOptimist@gmail.com. Find more NoCo Optimist content at www.thenocooptimist.com.