Wheat Ridge annexation back on city agenda this week

The proposed residential development on the east end of the city is back on the agenda for this week’s City Commission meeting.

The request to annex and zone about 20 acres as the first phase of a larger residential subdivision was initially heard during a September public hearing when the commission opted to postpone the decision to January.

The proposed project includes 37 residential lots and three mixed use lots. The first 20 acres 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.

In January, the developer, C&W Development, asked the city to again postpone the decision and requested that it be considered at the March 5 meeting so that they could complete their new stormwater plans.
Wheat Ridge decision postponed to March

Initially, staff had concerns regarding stormwater, access, strain on public safety and compatibility with Malmstrom Air Force Base and recommended that commissioners deny the annexation.
Wheat Ridge developers ask to postpone decision to March

Staff continues to recommend denial of the annexation.

Neighborhood Council 5 voted in February 2018 to support the project and the city planning board voted 6-3 in April 2018 to approve the first phase.

In September, Commissioner Owen Robinson moved to approve the proposed annexation, but the motion was amended by Commissioner Mary Moe who added conditions that approval was contingent on storm water and public safety access details to be worked out between staff and the applicant.

At the time, staff expressed concern with the motion that commissioners approved since it was vague and in their staff report for this week’s meeting, wrote that the motion is legally insufficient.

Staff is recommending that commissioners take that motion of the table and deny it to make a clean motion for either approving or denying the proposed annexation. If they vote to approve annexation, commissioners will have to develop their own findings of fact and an improvement agreement.
City Commission postpones Wheat Ridge annexation decision to January

In February, the applicant submitted additional stormwater plans, which their engineer Kevin May from Big Sky Civil and Environmental wrote would exceed the city and the state’s requirements.

Staff and the applicant met again in mid-February, but according to the staff report, city staff still have concerns pertaining to the stormwater plan.

The city is currently being sued for $2 million by a property owner south of the proposed Wheat Ridge development because of stormwater damage to his property that he alleges is the result of previous development in that area of the city.

In previous hearings, the Wheat Ridge team said the city cannot hold their project to a higher standard for stormwater design because of litigation.
Wheat Ridge vote scheduled for tonight’s City Commission meeting

The commission specifically said during the September hearing that they wanted additional information regarding emergency service access. but according to city staff, the applicant has not provided any new information. Staff has emailed reminders and had verbal discussions with the applicant on access, according to staff.

Staff maintains that the proposed emergency access drive is not adequate because the proposed asphalt-milling surface won’t be durable or bear the weight of a 75,000-pound fire engine and the proposed seeding would require maintenance and would degrade the milled surface.
Wheat Ridge set for what will likely be a heated hearing on Sept. 18

Staff has requested that the access road be paved.

In September, Spencer Woith, one of the Wheat Ridge developers, said their geotechnical report showed the asphalt milling surface could bear the weight of a fire engine and that the Montana Department of Transportation required seeding so that it would not be used for anything other than an emergency approach.

Woith said the maintenance of the seeded access road would be the responsibility of the development’s homeowners association and it could be written into the annexation improvement agreement for commission approval.

Public safety response times have continued to be an issue for the city as both the fire and police department have expressed concern that the city continues to grow, further straining their limited resources.
GFPD facing staffing shortage, temporarily dissolving BRIC officer, changing shift schedules

Last week, Police Chief Dave Bowen told boards of two downtown groups that he won’t stand in the way of development but since he’s already facing a staffing shortage, he wants the community to be aware that continued growth with limit their ability to do proactive and preventative police work.

During public meetings related to NeighborWorks Great Falls’ Rockcress Commons apartment complex south of town, GFFR and city planning officials mentioned concerns about public safety response times, though those concerns were mitigated by sprinkler systems in the buildings and that public streets bordered the development on multiple sides.
City approves annexation of 20 acres for 83 homes on southern edge

Discussions have also centered around the impact to Malmstrom Air Force Base and any future missions there.

A number of people have spoken during meetings and submitted written comments saying that the base will never get a new flying mission and economic development decisions shouldn’t take the base into account, but other local business owners, residents, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, have submitted comments encouraging the city to protect the base and not lose the opportunity for any future missions in favor of a housing development.
Malmstrom construction underway to prepare for new helicopters

During public meetings, it’s been said many times that the proposed development would expand the tax base and provide the needed revenue for public safety costs.

The market values of the proposed new homes aren’t yet known, but the city finance director provided estimates based on houses in the city with values ranging from $200,000 to $300,000 using fiscal year 2018 tax rates.
Interactive budget tool gives citizens more information on what taxes support

During the September hearing, Finance Director Melissa Kinzler said that if all 37 single family homes proposed in the first Wheat Ridge phase had a market value of $300,000, the city would get $24,786 in property taxes for the general fund.
Interactive budget tool gives citizens more information on what taxes support

The city’s current budget includes $19.5 million in property tax revenue. The public safety budget is $22.5 million: $13.5 million for GFPD and $8.9 million for GFFR.
Proposed city budget would close Natatorium, potentially a golf course

During the budget process last spring and summer, GFPD again requested six new police officers, which is an estimated $81,264 each or $487,584 for all six. The two new firefighter positions requested by GFFR would cost an estimated $154,000.

Municipal court staff requested $46,375 for a part-time municipal court judge to help address the high case volume.

None of those staffing requests were funded in the current city budget.