New Willowcroft vote looks likely

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In an effort to stall development on the old Willowcroft property, a group of Columbine Valley residents turned in 210 signatures Sept. 18 — five weeks early and with 152 more than the 58 required.

“If the petitions meet sufficiency, which I anticipate they will, the board of trustees must then reconsider the rezoning of the property,” said JD McCrumb, town clerk. He is in the process of determining that now.

Development company Taylor Morrison won the first round in April, when the town’s board of trustees approved its plan to demolish the former Willowcroft Manor & Farm, 3600 W. Bowles Ave., to make way for 41 single-story patio homes and one large estate home. The company silenced a long and vocal controversy about preserving the historic building by tearing it down shortly thereafter.

But that didn’t quell concerns about the density of the project, so Brian Macaulay launched an effort to force the matter to a vote of the public. The town’s master plan technically limits maximum density to 2.4 units per acre, less than the 2.95 that Taylor Morrison proposes.

“The residents are sending a message to the trustees that they want the trustees to respect the master plan, which lays out a vision for the town’s future,” he says. “The clear standard in the master plan is for all new developments to beautify and enhance the town, and to maintain the open feel that is unique to Columbine Valley. This high-density development does not accomplish these goals.”

McCrumb expects the board to review the ordinance during its Oct. 15 meeting. The trustees can either repeal it, sending the developer back to the drawing board, or let the town’s voters have the final say by setting a date for a special election sometime in December, January or February.

“It is my hope that we can get this done as quickly as possible, and hold the election before the end of this year,” said McCrumb.

That might be because next year will have its own battle. The 106-acre Tuck property is being scoped out by developers, and McCrumb expects a proposal to be on the table sometime next year.

Macauley worries the Willowcroft project could set a trend.

“My message to the residents of Columbine Valley regarding what the trustees have approved is that actions speak louder than words,” he said.

“If they acted in this way on this project, when it clearly runs counter to the guidelines of the master plan, what reason is there to think that they will not do the same for every other future development in our town, such as (the Tuck farm)? The residents need to send a clear message to the trustees that this will not be allowed. The trustees must respect the long-term vision of our town.”