Wheat Ridge developers ask to postpone decision to March

Debate over storm water, public safety and compatibility with Malmstrom Air Force Base delayed a decision on the proposed Wheat Ridge Estates housing development from September to the Jan. 15 City Commission meeting.

But, at the request of the developer, it will likely be delayed again.

Spencer Woith, one of the developers, wrote to the city in early January asking that the public hearing be delayed to March 5.

City Commission postpones Wheat Ridge annexation decision to January

In an email to The Electric, Woith said they need more time to work on “some additional portions of the technical side of the design. It’s just taking us longer than we thought for a myriad of reasons.”

City staff recommended denial of the project over concerns on storm water, public safety, connectivity and compatibility with Malmstrom.

Wheat Ridge master plan

Conceptual plans for the larger Wheat Ridge master plan area.

On Tuesday, commissioners must remove the proposed annexation from the table since they set the action to a date certain during a September 2018 meeting. That date was Jan. 15.

The motion that was table at the time, was to adopt the annexation on the condition that storm water and the emergency egress road issues be worked out between the applicant and city staff.

City staff is recommending that the commission postpone the decision as requested by the applicant.

The city is being asked to annex a 20.98 acre parcel for three mixed-use lots and 37 single-family residential lots.

But, the parcel is part of a larger 227.63 acre property owned by the KYSO Corporation, which is owned by Dan Huestis, who also owns the roughly 3,000 acres being considered for the Madison Food Park to the near east of the Wheat Ridge proposal. The developers of Madison Food Park put that project on hold in May and have not responded to requests from The Electric about their plans for that proposal or whether they will continue to pursue the Cascade County location.

Madison Food Park application on hold for next six months

The commission could vote on the annexation during Tuesday’s meeting but since they made approval contingent on storm water and emergency access, if they approved it on Tuesday, they would be ignoring their own conditions since staff has yet to receive any new information on storm water or emergency access.

In September, commissioners postponed the decision to, in part, give city staff time to review revised storm water plans that had been submitted to the city late the week prior to the public hearing and the afternoon of the hearing. Commissioners expressed concerns about public safety access to and from the development, though several indicated a desire to allow growth regardless of concern over potential conflict with Malmstrom operations.

[READ: Previous coverage of the Wheat Ridge proposal and process]

In September, Craig Raymond, city planning director, said he was concerned about conditional annexation and wasn’t clear on what conditions Moe was proposing based on her motion.

Raymond said it would take time for the development to provide the necessary information about the new storm water idea and it would take time for staff to review and suggested a January date to revisit the proposal.

For city staff, storm water and access issues have been the primary concern with the proposed development.

The Wheat Ridge development team argued that their proposal meets the city’s criteria for approval and that the city can’t impose stricter requirements on them because of a pending $2 million lawsuit against the city over storm water from a property owner downhill of the proposed Wheat Ridge.

A number of supporters said the city should approve the project for economic development, additional housing and to move on from the hope of a new flying mission at Malmstrom.

Opponents of the project, which included the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, the Montana Defense Alliance, a Cascade County commissioner and others, said the city should deny the annexation to avoid limiting future mission opportunities for the base.

Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte sent a letter on Tuesday to the city saying any decision limiting the base is “shortsighted.”

City staff recommended denial of the project over concerns on storm water, public safety, connectivity and compatibility with Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Last week, Col. Buel Dickson, commander of the 120th Airlift Wing, said they had nixed plans of a landing zone at Malmstrom for the C-130s, but continue to conduct cargo drop training at the base.

Locals pitching Air Force to reopen runway for ICBM replacement program; defense bill authorizes funds for Montana military missions

The Air Force is currently in the process of replacing the UH-1N Huey fleet at Malmstrom with MH-139 helicopters. The base will receive 11 new helicopters, up from the current fleet of eight Hueys.

Malmstrom construction underway to prepare for new helicopters

The base is also currently constructing millions of dollars worth of new facilities for the new helicopters; preparing for a new weapons storage complex; and the Air Force is in the process of a multi-billion dollar effort to replace the current Minuteman III weapon system with the new ground based strategic deterrent.

Air Force awards two contracts for Minuteman III ICBM replacement

Whether the base will ever see another flying mission is, of course, a subject of continued debate in the city, but the 120th is being considered for a new aeromedical mission currently.

Air Force officials have repeatedly told The Electric over the last year that the Air Force has no plans to reactivate the runway.

Great Falls considered for new Air Force mission

Some members of the Congressional delegation have also been pressuring the Air Force to consider Malmstrom for the new bomber aircraft, though those locations have already been announced, and some members of the delegation haven’t ruled out considering Malsmtrom for President Trump’s proposed Space Force.