City staff recommending denial of Wheat Ridge annexation, zoning

City staff are recommending denial of the request to annex 20.98 acres for the proposed Wheat Ridge development behind the east side Walmart.

Staff is recommending denial of the annexation, as well as assigning a Planned Unit Development Zoning and preliminary plat requests for the project.

The city’s Planning Advisory Board/Zoning Commission is the first major board to review the requests, though Neighborhood Council 5 voted to support the project during their Montana meeting.

Wheat Ridge subdivision planned for east end; tension likely with hopes of new flying mission at Malmstrom

The planning board meeting Feb. 27 and regardless of their determination, the project will go to the City Commission for a final decision.

The property is owned by KYSO Corporation, or Dan Huestis, and is part of a larger 227.63 acre parcel.

A portion of the larger parcel includes 10.21 acres of Airfield Restrictive Easement that cannot be disturbed for development, decreasing the total potential development area to 217.42 acres.

The entire parcel is in the Cascade County Planning jurisdiction and zoned Agricultural, which restricts development to single-family detached units or two-unit dwellings on parcels that must be at least 20 acres in size, according to the staff report. Since the parcel is contiguous to the city limits because of the east end retail annexation, KYSO filed a certificate of survey with the county to split off a 20.98 acre parcel through an agricultural exemption to the county’s subdivision ordinance.

Since the 20.98 acre parcel is adjacent to the city limits, it’s eligible for annexation consideration.

KYSO and developer Spencer Woith, among others, have long had plans for a master planned community on this land to include a mix of residential types and mixed use properties as well as pocket parks and linear greenways.

Wheat Ridge master plan

Conceptual plans for the larger Wheat Ridge master plan area.

The developers started plans for this parcel in 2005 and had previously developed the Berkner Heights residential subdivision as well as the East Ridge residential subdivision in the southeast portion of the community.

City planners have likened the Wheat Ridge concept to Josephine Crossing in Billings.

The first phase, which is the 20.98 acre parcel, is proposed to include 37 single family lots and three mixed use lots. The developers requested a Planned Unit Development zoning, but model development standards and allowable uses after the city’s M-1 Mixed-use zoning district. M-1 allows a range of residential types, some retail uses, office uses, institutional uses and light manufacturing, according to the city. The development standards for the residential potion of this phase would most closely resemble the R-2 single family medium density zoning district, but would include a mix of standards from the R-1 and R-3 zoning districts as well, according to city planning.

The proposed single family lots would be 11,500 square feet.

Woith told Neighborhood Council 5 on Monday that the plan was oversized lots for larger homes with views of the mountains to the east.

Notice of the planning board meeting was published in the newspaper on Feb. 11 and a sign was posted on the property. Staff has not received any request for information about the project or comment in support or opposition to the project.

The city is not required to approve every annexation request, but is required to evaluate proposals on their individual merits, according to state law.

“Simply put, annexation is discretionary, not mandatory,” city planning staff wrote in their report.

In reviewing the proposed development, staff have noted challenges, including possible conflict with the missions at Malmstrom Air Force Base, stormwater issues and public safety.

The city’s emergency responders have concerns about their ability to respond to calls in the proposed development. Currently, fire or EMS response to the area would typically come from Station 3 at 3325 Central Ave. and the average response time to Walmart has been 6-7 minutes. A 4-minute response time is the industry standard.

Other areas of the city have equal or longer response times, but staff contend that this parcel has additional challenges since the plan submitted to the city shows just one single public street access for 37 residential lots and three mixed use lots.

Woith did mention during the Neighborhood Council 5 meeting that they were working with the Montana Department of Transportation to adding an additional access point for emergency responders.

“Complicating the city service issue even further is the parcel’s location in reference to properties to the west. The parcel borders a developed property, the KOA Campground, but that property is not annexed into the city and is served by a private drive that doesn’t connect to the applicant’s parcel,” staff wrote in their report. “The nearest existing east-west oriented public street to the west of the parcel (13th Avenue South) is over 1/2 mile from the applicant’s project.”

The annexation agreement for the east side retail center included the dedication of a 60-foot wide right of way for 13th Avenue South and a small portion of this right of way borders the proposed Wheat Ridge development.

If this development is approved and additional future phases in the master plan area are considered for annexation, staff wrote that consideration should be paid to constructing 13th Avenue South within this dedicated right of way to allow access for emergency services, but general city service delivery and overall transportation connectivity for the entire master plan.

Stormwater is also an issue and the city is currently involved in litigation related to stormwater drainage and groundwater impacts from previous developments in the area that have been annexed into the city. The plaintiff in that case, L. Johnson Inc., owns property bordering the Wheat Ridge master plan area on the southern end.

City staff contend that additional drainage and groundwater from the proposed Wheat Ridge development may affect the Johnson property.

Wheat Ridge developers have submitted preliminary stormwater plans to the city including a series of detention ponds designed to hold the post-development rate of flow to slightly less than the pre-development flow rate currently occurring for the property, according to the staff report.

The developers are proposing a large detention pond that would temporarily remain in the county and capture and detain storm drainage from the proposed Phase I subdivision as well as future development phases 2-9.

The development “will cause increased volume of water into, and potential groundwater impacts on, the sensitive downstream system,” staff wrote in their report.

To address the drainage issues, the city engineering department has recommended that stormwater from the first phase either be retained completely in a lined pond or pumped into the next drainage basin to the north.

Potential conflicts with Malmstrom Air Force Base are also cause for concern to city staff.

Malmstrom’s runway was deactivated in 1997 and the Air Force told The Electric that it has no plans to reactivate the runway, though the 120th Airlift Wing is using the area for drop training and has been working to develop an assault landing strip on base.

The Joint Land Use Study that was adopted by the City Commission in 2012 identifies a major portion of the larger master plan area in Accident Potential Zone I. For the proposed 20.98 acre parcel, about 30 percent of the area is within the APZ.

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According to the JLUS, compatible uses in the area include agricultural; open space; commercial when not within a designated military safety zone and buildings and structures are below a specified building height; some industrial because industrial uses have many of the same characteristics as military uses such as noise, dust, steam, smoke, safety, etc.

Incompatible uses near the base, as identified by the JLUS, include medium to high density residential, because high numbers of people are permanently congregated in small areas; schools; childcare centers; assisted living complexes; public institutions; office buildings.

In a memo from Malmstrom, officials write that residential/commercial development on the undeveloped lands southwest of the base could impact operations.

Among the areas that could be impacted: 110-acre helicopter movement area; 625-acre drop zone; 4,800 foot long by 60 foot wide proposed assault landing zone.

Usage in the area includes 1,232 flight orders per year and 1,696 sorties per year; 42 functional check flights per year for the UH-1N Huey helicopter operations. According to the memo, the flight hours have increased by 25 percent for fiscal year 2018 from 3,200 hours to 4,000 hours. For the C-130 operations, there are 500 training bundles/sandbags and 500 heavy drops annually, as well as 500 projected sorties per year if the assault landing zone is constructed.

According to Malmstrom’s memo, development could impact multiple arrival and departure flight tracks for the Hueys and light pollution from the development could impair the ability to monitor aircraft in formation during night operations.

Hueys fly about 500 feet above ground level in the area of the proposed Wheat Ridge and aircraft noise could pose a nuisance to the area, according to the memo.

City staff has advised the developers to proactively identify proper noise mitigation techniques into construction design for the development, but according to staff, the applicant has not yet addressed the issue in its annexation petition.

Other issues include street naming since the developer is proposing to extend 57th Street South but call it “Wheat Ridge Parkway,” which is inconsistent with the city’s street naming policy. The proposal also indicates a large median for the extended 57th Street but the city Park and Recreation Department has indicated they do not have the staff or resources to maintain the medians. The developers have proposed that the medians be maintained by a homeowners association.

The city streets division is concerned about the medians as they complicate snow removal operations.