City Commission denies Wheat Ridge annexation
City Commissioners voted 5-0 on Tuesday to deny annexation of 21.1 acres on the eastern edge of the city for the proposed Wheat Ridge residential subdivision.
The annexation request was initially submitted to the city last spring and had support from Neighborhood Council 5 and the city planning board.
But city staff has recommended denial for the last year based on concerns over public safety resources, stormwater management and compatibility with operations at Malmstrom Air Force Base, among others.
Going into Tuesday’s public hearing, staff maintained that the proposed emergency access road didn’t meet standards and hadn’t received any additional information from the applicant by the time the staff had to complete their agenda report on Feb. 21.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Abigail St. Lawrence, an attorney for the applicants, said that the developers had agreed to pave the roadway.
Commissioner Mary Moe asked when that agreement was reached and Spencer Woith, one of the developers, said around 2 p.m. the day of the hearing.
“Everything feels so rushed to me and that makes me nervous,” Moe said.
Craig Raymond, city planning director, said that if the paved roadway met all city standards, that would address their concerns for the access road.
Great Falls Fire Rescue Chief Steve Hester said he was concerned about response times to the area, which would likely be nine minutes, which he said could be too late to do much good.
“I will continue to beat that drum and I will continue to do so as long as I am chief,” Hester said.
Stormwater remained the major issue for staff, who continued to express concern leading up to Tuesday’s hearing.
The applicant hired Big Sky Civil and Environmental to handle the stormwater plans and in their narrative on the designs submitted to the city said the plans would meet and exceed the city’s requirements.
BSCE did not attend or speak during Tuesday’s hearing due to a conflict with the county, St. Lawrence said but couldn’t elaborate on their reasoning or their conflict.
Two people spoke in favor of the annexation during the hearing, though more attended in support of Wheat Ridge.
They said the lots were needed for home construction and that development was needed on the east end of the city.
In opposition to the project were those expressing concern over the project’s potential impact to Malmstrom and any future missions.
Commissioner Bill Bronson said he was reluctant to deny the project since he supports development, but in this case, he was concerned about lingering questions and the potential impact to the base.
Commissioner Owen Robinson said the city needs development and housing but the potential impact to the base was “a huge risk.”
Commissioner Tracy Houck said, “I don’t feel like it’s a win-win for our community.”
Moe said that she thought the community’s relationship with the base had made it reluctant to take risks and that putting so much focus on the base could negatively impact the entrepreneurial spirit in the community.
But, for her this decision wasn’t about the base.
“I wanted with everything in me to support this,” Moe said. “I just felt the application wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Mayor Bob Kelly said the decision wasn’t closing the door on development on the property or around the base, but that there were issues that needed to be resolved.