Opposition prompts council to change task force site

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Pressure from Rowley Downs homeowners prompted town council to reconsider a plan to build a new Parker Task Force facility near the entrance of their neighborhood.

Town council announced a decision May 28 to ask the nonprofit task force to return the property that the Town of Parker donated for the new building in December. The 8,000-square-foot facility was proposed near Mainstreet and Stonehenge Way, on the east side of town hall.

“Although it was the town council’s decision to resolve the disputed issue in this manner, the council is committed to assisting the task force in identifying and acquiring a new site in order to meet its current and future demands for services,” a statement from the town says.

The homeowners said they believe there are more appropriate town-owned properties that could be donated to the Parker Task Force, which provides underprivileged Douglas and Elbert county residents with food and support services to help them become self-sufficient.

The town says the task force agreed to comply with council’s request to return the one-acre property. Diane Roth, volunteer spokeswoman for the task force, said the move puts the organization “back at square one.”

“Of course we’re disappointed by the decision because it’s a setback for the Parker Task Force,” she said.

Residents of Rowley Downs sent emails and attended council meetings in recent weeks to voice their disapproval. They also started a Facebook page called “Keep Downtown Parker Historic.” In a letter to members of town council, David Janecek summed up the concerns in the neighborhood.

“To put a warehouse/commercial facility (at the proposed location) would certainly diminish the beauty and possibly lower my property values and the value of the ‘new’ downtown Parker,” Janecek said. “I think the plot of land should be designated as open — keep it as a park, anything but a warehouse.”

Councilman John Diak, who was not yet on council when the land donation was approved, said he had to get up to speed on the project. The land came with deed restrictions that required the task force to follow “historic center development guidelines” for the downtown district. Diak said the proposal for the new facility would have required the current council to waive certain standards.

But it was the “public swelling” and “discontentment” from residents that caused council to reach a tipping point, he said, and council engaged in closed-door discussions before deciding to request the land back.

Rowley Downs residents are relieved that their worries were addressed and some have praised Parker Town Council's decision.

“We appreciate the wonderful work the Parker Task Force does, and we’re extremely grateful to the mayor, town council and Parker Task Force for hearing our concerns and seeking a better location for the food bank,” said homeowner Michael Roueche.

Roth said the decision to ask for the land back was not explained to her, but she came to the assumption that council “reversed what had been a unanimous decision based on the outcry from the neighborhoods.”

While she is disappointed, Roth said she will take the town up on its offer to identify another property for the new facility, and Diak reiterated council’s commitment to follow through. Roth will also continue the capital campaign to raise money to build the expanded task force center. Until a task force presentation to the Rowley Downs Homeowners’ Association that resulted in the uproar, the new facility was on pace to open by the end of this year.

There is no desire to sell the land or build anything on it until a need arises, Diak said, adding that a future expansion of town hall is possible.

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