Residents battle rezoning application for housing

Rock Canyon area homeowners worry about traffic, property values

Posted 7/17/18

Residents of neighborhoods in southeast Highlands Ranch are fighting a proposed residential development they say would increase traffic, hurt home values and change the atmosphere of the existing …

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Residents battle rezoning application for housing

Rock Canyon area homeowners worry about traffic, property values

Posted

Residents of neighborhoods in southeast Highlands Ranch are fighting a proposed residential development they say would increase traffic, hurt home values and change the atmosphere of the existing suburban area.

“Highlands Ranch is known for being cookie cutter,” resident Heather Goldberg said. “Part of that is what makes it a really good place to live.”

The proposed development known as “Rock Canyon Planned Development” is 10 acres of land north of Rock Canyon High School and east of Pax Christi Catholic Church on the north side of McArthur Ranch Road. Surrounding neighborhoods are the Hearth to the west and single-family homes to the east, off Quebec and McArthur Ranch Road.

The land is currently zoned by Douglas County as Agricultural-One, which means it is to be used for rural purposes such as farms, ranches or open space. Ten years ago, the former owners of the land, a longtime family of Highlands Ranch, sold 10 acres to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs — which Pax Christi is a parish of — on non-binding terms that it would someday be used for a school or sports field, said one of the former owners, who would like her name withheld for privacy reasons.

The church has since entered into a land sale agreement with United Development Companies LLC, a developer based in Greenwood Village.

The developer is requesting the land be rezoned from Agricultural-One to Planned Development to allow for the construction of 66 units, comprising single and paired family homes, meaning townhomes or duplexes.

The project manager, Daniel Sheldon, has held two neighborhood meetings in the last two months and presented before the Development Review Committee (DRC) of the Highlands Ranch Community Association on July 11. The committee reviews development plans and makes referrals to the county.

Michelle Medina, who lives in the Hearst, worries that once the rezoning is approved, the builder will not consider the context of the surrounding neighborhoods, which consist of single-family homes in neutral colors with pitched roofs.

“Once we open the door to it, we don't have any control over what the builder will do,” Medina said during public comment at the July 11 DRC meeting at Eastridge Recreation Center, 9568 S University Blvd.

After receiving negative feedback from residents, Sheldon and his team reduced the number of units on the property from 82 to 66. He also agreed to keep the height of the homes at less than 35 feet and allow only pitched roofs. There would be a 40-foot buffer between the property line and McArthur Ranch Road and a 25-foot buffer between homes and existing property lines, he said. Twenty percent of the land would be used for open space and a pocket park.

Sheldon has secured water and sewer services through Centennial Water and Sanitation District, he said.

Plans call for single-family homes and multi-family homes or townhomes. The number of attached units could be up to six, Sheldon said, and prices are expected to be in the $300,000 to $500,000 range.

“They will not bring down values of neighbors,” Sheldon said. “If anything, they might bring them up.”

Many residents remain concerned over traffic in the area. McArthur Ranch Road, a two-lane street, bustles during peak times due to people coming in and out of Rock Canyon High School and its neighbor, Rocky Heights Middle School. The intersection of Quebec Street and Lincoln Avenue, one of the busiest intersections in Highlands Ranch, is just north of the property.

The area isn't prepared for the amount of traffic the development would bring, residents say. They foresee longer wait times and more motorists taking short cuts through residential streets, such as Jaguar Way, which connects Quebec Street and McArthur Ranch Road.

“We already have a severe traffic problem,” Medina said. “How does it make sense to add more to it?”

During peak hours, said Goldberg, who also lives in the Hearth, it can take her 20 minutes to get from Quebec to Southridge Recreation Center using McArthur Ranch Road. The stretch is just under two miles.

Sheldon and his team conducted a traffic analysis in April. The study found that the development would bring 52 new vehicles during peak morning hours and 68 during peak afternoon hours, he said.

“We understand that there is an ongoing concern over traffic in the area, but the issue is a regional one, not a site specific one,” Sheldon said at the July 11 meeting. “We are not going to be helping those problems but we are not adding anything to it that would be noticeable to any driver on any given day.”

Members of HRCA's Development Review Committee commended Sheldon and his team for reducing the number of units by 20 percent. They emphasized the importance of taking traffic at nearby intersections into consideration and asked that the homes complement surrounding neighborhoods.

“I don't think townhomes are compatible to the uses around you,” committee member Woody Bryant said. “I think we are going to have a hard time as a group with townhomes.”

Sheldon's rezoning request will go through a referral process to get feedback from affected agencies such as the school district, fire district and utilities district. Sheldon expects the rezoning request to go before the Douglas County Planning Commission in late august and before the board of commissioners in mid-September.

“We welcome comments that are good and bad,” Sheldon said, “because it is a collaborative process.”

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