Vote could occur amid lingering controversy

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With the Willowcroft controversy still swirling through the Town of Columbine Valley, Mayor Gale Christy wants residents to separate that issue from another that will soon face the community.

“The petition calling for a referendum vote on the Willowcroft rezoning and plan, if it indeed goes to election in Columbine Valley, should be voted on with factual knowledge and actual conditions, not on rumor or misleading information,” he said.

On the other side of town from Willowcroft sits the 103-acre Tuck property. It’s currently being scoped out by developers, and town clerk JD McCrumb expects a proposal to be on the table sometime next year. Citizens pushing to overturn the board of trustee’s recent decision on Willowcroft fear it sets a precedent for higher densities that could affect what’s allowed on Tuck.

“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)?” said Brian Macaulay, who headed up the petition drive that now requires the trustees to revisit their decision, which was set to happen Oct. 15. “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.”

But Christy notes the two sites are in vastly different neighborhoods, with Willowcroft adjacent to Town Hall and Bowles Avenue, across from a shopping center and an office park and surrounded by higher density than most of the town. Tuck, on the other hand, is surrounded by low density, South Platte Park and the equestrian center.

“A precedent will not come into play as the Tuck property plans are being considered by the planning and zoning commission and the board of trustees, in my opinion and in the opinion of the town’s professional planner,” Christy said.

The town’s master plan technically limits maximum density to 2.4 units per acre, less than the 2.95 that developer Taylor Morrison proposes for Willowcroft. The company plans 41 single-story patio homes and one large estate home for the nearly 10-acre site.

But Christy points out that the master plan allows for higher density if the project provides other benefits for the community. Taylor Morrison is making improvements to the intersection at Bowles and Middlefield Road and preserving 25 percent of its land as open space, among other things.

Garrett Baum of Taylor Morrison has said if the patio homes are rejected, the company will probably build two-story family dwellings instead, which he says would increase population and traffic even more.

Christy did express some regret that the company tore down the historic manor that once sat on the land, almost immediately after the trustees approved the project.

“We would have preferred that it not be demolished, but we don’t have a historic-preservation ordinance in Columbine Valley, so there was nothing we, as a board, could do except talk to the owners,” he said. “I’ve talked to all of them about preserving it. They all would have preferred to preserve it, but they said it just wasn’t cost-effective for them.”

During the October meeting, the trustees can either repeal the rezone, 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.