WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – On Monday night, Westminster’s City Council began the process of approving or denying a huge development that will cover some of the last big parcels of open land close to Denver. The property, belonging to the Pillar of Fire Church includes what’s known to many locally as “The Farm,” north of the old Westminster Castle.
The Farm spans property from 84th to 88th Avenues between Federal and Lowell Boulevards. The castle and 100 acres around it would remain with the church.
“It’s at a high point in the metro area. You have a 365 (view) of the Front Range. You see a perfect picture of downtown. Pikes Peak, Longs Peak. You can’t find that anywhere. There’s nothing like that left like that in the metropolitan area,” said Karen Ray, and organizer with a group opposed to the project called Save the Farm.
Oread Capital Development has been designing the development for years.
“We have changed our plans drastically to incorporate public feedback,” said Jeff Handlin of Oread Capital & Development that has named it Uplands.
“We’ve attended over 200 neighborhood and city meetings. Some of them in large venues, some of them at kitchen tables.”
Handlin says they’ve been responsive to community concerns.
“And we have incorporated a lot of what we heard. More open space, nearer to the edges. To serve the existing neighborhoods better.”
Critics have concerns about losing open space, increased traffic, water use and type of housing.
“This is not some high end part of Westminster or the near burbs. It has the most diverse population in the city. These are tiny post-World War II houses,” said Ray.
Her group has collected 10,000 signatures opposed, and some of the opposition is coming from outside of Westminster as people express concern about eliminating open space for more housing.
The developers are quick to point out there is need for more housing and say they have included affordable housing.
“The loudest voices are not necessarily the majority, and so there are a lot of folks in this community that support this Uplands project,” said Handlin.
He says the development is also heavy on what they call “missing middle” housing – that in a middle price range. Much of the land, he also points out, was zoned for housing development over a hundred years ago.
The Pillar of Fire Church has kept a farm on the land north of 84th Avenue for decades. It is a fixture of the community. The deal for selling the land to the developer is contingent on approval of the development.
“The land owners have private property rights that we recognize in this city and state and while the immediate neighbors, some of them might not want to see change, I think we have to remind ourselves that a private land owner has rights as well,” said Handlin.
Ray says she’d like to see the city purchase the land with the help of potentially available federal money.
“This as much as possible should be preserved for the public. For the next generation and the next generation after that.”
The cost would be high. The land may be attractive to locals, but also to developers as the metro area tries to keep up with housing demand. Handlin points out the farm is not currently accessible, but would be with development.
“That land, while it is open, in physical space, it’s private. Fenced private property, and by developing these 47 acres of park, we’re actually inviting the neighbors in for the first time ever.”
Ray claims there’s not enough and wants it as open space.
“We have one world and we’re going to leave it to the next generation, how are we going to leave it? What kind of a city, what kind of towns are we rebuilding?”
The council will continue to hear public comment and debate the project before a first vote that could come as soon as Wednesday when there will be another meeting. Also up for discussion is annexing several acres of land from the county to make the project possible. After a first vote, if it passes it would still have to go through a second vote as well.