GV City Council punts Century’s Orchard Station project and why it Matters in the City Council Election

Monday night City Council had an opportunity to vote on Century Communities’ high-density Landmark Village residential development in Orchard Station. City council members could have provided clarity and transparency on their positions regarding Orchard Station. They could have begun the City’s healing process after the damaging division they created as a result of the June 6 Special Election. They could have honored the vision that is articulated in the Greenwood Village Comprehensive Plan. They could have said we heard the message sent by 76% of voters loud and clear. 

They didn’t.  

Instead they delayed the issue until December 4 and AFTER the upcoming City Council Election (ballots are being mailed this week). City council members argued that this delay would “de-politicize” their decision. Instead, I believe the decision does exactly the opposite by providing cover to TJ GORDON , FREDA MIKLIN and DARRYL JONES in their efforts to be reelected on November 7. 

Attendees at Monday’s hearing were told TJ Gordon recommended the delay until after the election. 

Twice during the meeting, Century offered to reduce the density in a last ditch effort to turn its $11 million Orchard Station investment into a $160 million development. Century’s application was predicated on the passage of the Orchard Station Subarea Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. This was City Staff’s conclusion when it reviewed Century’s initial 104-unit Landmark Village application that was withdrawn at the beginning of 2016. 
The Subarea Amendment would have allowed residential and higher-density TOD development (tripling the height restrictions in the Amendment would have tripled the allowable density). 
TJ, Darryl and Freda REFUSED to agree to specific density restrictions requested as part of a compromise effort before the Orchard Station Amendment was sent to the voters in June. 

Century’s final offer Monday night included 161-units (reduced from 189). This would still be over twice the density of Caley Ponds and three-times the density of Marvella (both nearby Century projects). 

Some members of city council argued that residential would be preferred, because it would generate less traffic. That is a true statement. However, residential has its own costs – impact on schools and a significant increases in residences, may also be dilutive to the tax base, city services and potentially home values due to greater supply. 

These issues may not all materialize from a single development like Century’s, but allowing Century’s residential development to proceed creates an important precedent. Alberta Development still owns the Marilyn Hickey property and may continue to have options on additional redevelopment sites in the area. Alberta’s initial development application included almost 1,200 residential units, which would have increased the number of residences in the City by about 20%. If Century gets residential, how can the City deny residential to Alberta?

Allowing the Century residential development would basically tell developers that the City’s Comprehensive Plan doesn’t matter, since it strongly discourages additional residential, except for a limited amount by the Arapahoe Road light rail stop (the “Village Center”).

What will this type of exception to the Comp Plan invite when other areas in the City’s Corridor Area are eventually redeveloped (e.g. the area around Sheplers)?

The city attorney acknowledged last November that the main difference between the existing Comp Plan and the Orchard Station Subarea was that the existing Plan focuses new residential in the Village Center. 

Over and over, city council members supporting Orchard Station said (and continue to say on the campaign trail) that they only wanted to amend the Comp Plan in order to have the opportunity to consider alternative development opportunities beyond commercial office. They have acknowledged repeatedly that the current Comp Plan discourages additional residential. 

So why couldn’t they make a decision on Monday night?

As we know, the vote to amend the Comp Plan on June 6 failed 76% to 24%. However, other than a comment by Councilman Dave Bullock, I don’t believe the Comp Plan was discussed at Monday night’s meeting. 

Why can’t the high-density candidates like TJ, Darryl and Freda be consistent and abide by their previous statements? The attempt to amend the Comp Plan failed on June 6, so to be consistent they shouldn’t have had a very difficult time evaluating Century’s Landmark residential development application. 

Council members had all of the information they needed to make a decision and begin to restore trust on Monday night, but they failed to do so. A significant portion of this process will now start over on December 4, we just don’t know how much – what a waste of time for City Staff and residents. 

When you cast your ballots for a new City Council, please consider the damage caused by current Council’s actions on Orchard Station and Monday’s decision to continue to prevent transparency and protect the vision of Greenwood Village. 

Thank you – Randy

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