The Golden Overlook property is a difficult site.
It presents many challenges for development and it has a complicated history, said Golden’s Planning Manager Rick Muriby during his presentation to Planning Commission on May 1.
The 27-acre area is an undeveloped privately-owned property between the residential neighborhoods of Golden Heights and Golden Hills, and the C-470 and I-70 exit, on the east if travelling southbound on C-470 out of Golden.
On May 1, Golden’s Planning Commission was tasked with deciding what recommendation it would make to city council for a proposed zone change and Official Development Plan (ODP) for the property. The request would allow commercial uses rather than residential dwellings, which is what is currently allowed there.
With a vote of four-to-two, Planning Commission recommended that city council deny the request. Patricia Evans, Fred Barta, John Caskey and Todd Collins voted yes; and Guthrie Alexander and Blake Mayberry voted no. Planning Commissioners Matt Burde and Don Cameron were not in attendance.
There is no proposed date as of press time for when the issue will go to city council.
“Families in Golden Heights and Golden Hills are concerned over how this commercial/industrial development would degrade the safety and security of their neighborhood and (how it) would negatively impact the Golden Heights Park and the soccer fields there,” said Jim Sims after the Planning Commission meeting. Sims has lived in his home in the adjacent neighborhood for 20 years.
A long history
The Golden Overlook property has been zoned as Planned Unit Developments (PUD) since 1979.
Golden resident Jim Blumenthal purchased the property in 2000 with the intention to relocate his trailer/RV business there, and requested an amendment to the zoning to allow dealerships and outdoor storage.
However, this request was later withdrawn because of strong neighborhood opposition. In 2002, a citizen petition drive tried to rezone the property as open space. But this request was eventually withdrawn by the petition committee because of a compromise that the property be rezoned as residential, Sims said.
By 2005, a city-initiated rezone occurred and the property was rezoned from commercial to single family residential. In 2008, the final plat plan for 92 homes was approved. However, the property faces a number of challenges when it comes to residential development.
“I spent 14 years trying to get this (property) sold to a residential developer,” Blumenthal said to planning commissioners on May 1. He reiterated that he bought the site for his business, not because he wanted to develop the property for any other use. “Fourteen years tells me this is probably not a residential site.”
According to city documents, it has remained undeveloped as residential because each prospective buyer/builder chose to pass on the project because of additional costs associated with the project. These costs include the need to construct expensive sound barriers to mitigate the traffic noise from the nearby I-70 and C-470 interchange. Additionally, the property has poor accessibility — it can only be accessed from West Fourth Avenue, which has to be accessed from Indiana Street via the West Sixth Avenue Frontage Road. This means the builder would incur the costs of extending West Fourth Avenue and would need to also implement traffic calming measures on the roadway.
The proposal at hand would keep the zoning as PUD, but would allow for lower-impact commercial uses — self-storage and personal warehouse, respectively — rather than residential. With this, the applicant is proposing two “use areas” within the site.
According to city documents, Use Area A would be about 5.4 acres of “open space and landscape uses to provide a physical and visual buffer between Use Area B and the existing residential homes to the east of the site.”
Use Area B is about 22.4 acres. It is “proposed to allow two primary uses — self-storage facilities and light industrial/commercial flex space,” the documents state. This flex space is imagined to be “small, condominium units to be used for professional offices; small businesses with indoor warehousing; studios such as photographic, art and culinary; custom manufacturing; and similar.”
Up to 80,000 square feet would be used for the self-storage facilities. Likewise, 80,000 square feet would be used for the flex space condominiums — 45 units spread across eight buildings — which would be owned, not rented. All buildings would have to adhere to a maximum height of 30 feet.
On May 1, Muriby provided Planning Commission with the latest estimates from a traffic impact study. If the property would be developed as the 92 home residential, there would a projected amount of 876 weekday trips. With the currently proposed commercial development, there would be a projected amount of 744 weekday trips.
This proposal is not ideal for neither the property owner or the neighbors, said Ryan McBreen with Norris Design, the firm working with the property owner, on May 1.
But, he added, “we believe what we’ve done is a great compromise.”
Neighbors largely disagree, however.
More than 70 people attended the hearing on May 1 and 21 people spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting — all were in opposition of the development proposal. Reasons were mainly traffic and safety concerns, but some pointed out that the proposed development would not “blend in” with the surrounding community and that it would “dramatically change the face of the neighborhood.”
The area is “already stressed because of the combination of residential and industrial uses that are already there,” said Marie Williams in an interview following the meeting. She has lived in her home adjacent to the property for seven years. “Safety and traffic issues are already happening and this proposal will only make those problems worse.”
Sims believes that the residents of Golden Heights and Golden Hills may present Golden voters with another alternative use for the land — a solar garden.
“Their concept is a rezoning through ballot initiative that would allow commercial solar energy development,” Sims said. “Given its location, that type of commercial use would seem to make a lot of sense.”
Beginning in October 2017, three neighborhood meetings about the Golden Overlook property have taken place. Neighbors’ ideas for what they would like to see on the property have been many, Williams said: a solar garden, a community garden, or a trailhead facility for those who would like to access trails and open space in neighboring Green Mountain in Lakewood.
“There have been a lot of good, creative ideas that have come from people concerned about development on this property. But it’s not just about what the neighbors want,” Williams said. “It’s about what would benefit the greater Golden community.”
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